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Germany renews call for ‘protected zone’ in NW Syria

BERLIN

Germany on Wednesday renewed its call for the establishment of a “protected zone” in northwestern Syria for millions of civilians fleeing the attacks of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German news agency DPA that the European states should take stronger responsibility to de-escalate tensions and pave the way for a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

“It is good that Chancellor Merkel remains in contact with French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on whether a protected zone would be helpful to ensure the urgently needed humanitarian assistance for the people in the region,” she said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer sharply criticized Russia’s support for the Bashar al-Assad regime, and voiced skepticism about Moscow’s commitment to the 2018 Sochi deal with Ankara to de-escalate tensions in northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

She argued that unlike Russia “the EU and NATO are reliable partners of Turkey.”

Germany’s defense minister called on the U.S. and European partners to further increase their pressure on Russia after escalating tensions in northwestern Syria.

“I believe that the EU and the U.S. must now simultaneously put more pressure on [Russian President Vladimir Putin] and Assad to pave the way for a political settlement to the Syria war,” she said.

Nearly 4 million civilians have been trapped in the last opposition stronghold of Idlib due the recent military offensive by the Assad regime, with the support of Russia and Iranian-backed forces in the region.

Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield on Sunday after 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib. They were stationed there as part of the 2018 Sochi deal with Russia to protect the civilian population and counter-terrorist groups.

In 2018, Turkey and Russia had agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression were expressly prohibited.

But the regime and its allies, including the Iranian-backed forces, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory.

More than 1,300 civilians have been killed in the Idlib de-escalation zone in such attacks, sending 1.7 million refugees towards Turkey’s border with Syria.

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