Syria said Monday it was waiting for Russiato determine whether a deal creating a buffer in the northwest was implemented, hours after jihadists missed a deadline to leave the zone.
A Russian-Turkish truce agreement reached nearly a month ago for the region of Idlib gave “radical fighters” until October 15 to leave a proposed demilitarised area between government and opposition forces.
Jihadists failed to withdraw overnight, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem did not declare the deal dead.
“We must give the time… to judge whether the agreement was fulfilled or not,” Muallem told reporters during a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Damascus.
“We have to wait for the Russian reaction. Russia is monitoring and following the situation,” he said.
The top diplomat expressed hope that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoganwould still be able to “fulfil the agreement from his part”.
But he hinted that the military option was not off the table, saying jihadist groups in Idlib “must be removed from its last stronghold in Idlib”.
“We have to wait, but at the same time, our troops are still ready around Idlib,” Muallem said.
“Idlib — as any other province — has to return back to the Syrian sovereignty,” he repeated.
“After Idlib, our goal will be east of the Euphrates,” he said, referring to an area controlled by a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by the US-led coalition.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces alliance controls around 30 percent of Syria, a chunk of territory second only in size to that controlled by regime forces.
“The issue of (land) east of the Euphrates is vital and we cannot relinquish it,” Muallem said.
Kurdish forces have carved out a de-facto autonomous region in the country’s north and northeast since the start of the war.
But Damascus has never recognised the autonomous zone, rejecting the federal system championed by the Kurds and repeatedly pledging to take back all Syrian territory.
“We do not accept federalism or this talk that violates the Syrian constitution,” he said.
Syria’s Kurds a few months ago started talks with the Damascus regime on the fate of their region, but these have not yet yielded any results.
“The Syrian state’s decision is to take back control. They can choose if it will be through dialogue or other means.