Russia will not stop its battle with terrorists for the sake of trying to solve Europe’s migration problems, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced.
“We fully understand the complexity of the migrant problem for the EU, and we are engaged in dialogue on the migration issue with the European Foreign Service, which we will continue. We will strive to contribute to solving this problem. But we cannot help solve migration problems by ending the fight against terrorism,” Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference alongside his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on Tuesday.
According to the Russian foreign minister, “the solution to the problem lies in the full implementation of the agreements between the presidents of Russia and Turkey reached in September 2018 on the Idlib de-escalation zone.”
Unfortunately, Lavrov said, these agreements are not being implemented.
Under the 2018 agreements, also known as the Sochi accords, the Turkish military was given the right to establish a dozen observation posts in the militant-controlled Idlib region, and obliged to separate jihadist militias from other armed anti-government groups willing to engage in peace talks with Damascus. The agreements also stipulated the need for Turkey to take “effective measures” to ensure a lasting ceasefire in the region. Russia has recently accused Turkey of failing to live up to these commitments.
Presidents Putin and Erdogan are expected to meet in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the Idlib crisis.
Commenting on the upcoming talks, Lavrov expressed hopes that the meeting would allow the parties to “begin moving toward the realization of what we have strived for.”
Idlib Crisis Brings Migration Headaches
The shaky ceasefire in Idlib between militant groups and the Syrian Army collapsed in late 2019, when, after repeated terror attacks on Syrian and Russian positions on the de-escalation zone’s borders, the Syrian Army began an offensive to clear the renegade province of the jihadist militias. Last month, a Syrian Army attack struck a Turkish observation post, killing eight troops and prompting threats of a full-scale intervention by Ankara. Two weeks later, Syrian forces struck and killed nearly three dozen Turkish troops during an attack on Nusra militants, prompting Turkey to launch a major military engagement dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’.
Amid the escalation in Idlib, Turkey has complained that it would no longer be able to take in any more refugees from Syria, and opened its borders to those seeking to make their way into Europe via Greece and Bulgaria. On Tuesday, the Russian Defence Ministry reported that Turkish authorities have been pushing about 130,000 refugees toward the Greek border, with only one third of them believed to be Syrian nationals. The rest are thought to comprise of Afghans, Iraqis, and persons from African nations.
* a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.