Sergey Lavrov made the stark comments as intense fighting rages in Idlib province, controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda franchise previously known as Al-Nusra. Some UN members tend to “justify the atrocities of radical and terrorist groups,” the foreign minister told a UN Human Rights Council meeting on Tuesday.

It is difficult to explain “exhortations about the possibility of peace agreements being made with the thugs as it takes place when the situation in Idlib is discussed,” he noted.

Therefore, talking about a ceasefire with terrorists is nothing but “surrendering to terrorists, or even encouraging their activities,” which is a gross violation of UN Security Council decisions, Lavrov stated.

The minister didn’t name names in Tuesday’s speech, but a day prior, he needled James Jeffrey, the US special representative, criticizing him for trying to whitewash Hayat Tahrir al-Sham members. The American official told a press briefing earlier this month that he had not seen the group – referred to as terrorists by the UN and the US itself – “planning or carrying out international terrorism attacks.”

Rejecting the proposal as “absolutely unacceptable,” Lavrov said the truce can only be made in areas where terrorists aren’t in charge; Moscow is now in talks with Turkey on the subject.

Hostilities in Idlib escalated in recent weeks, just as Syrian government forces made remarkable advances towards strategic locations in the province. The army has been fiercely fighting over the M4 highway, which links the cities of Aleppo and Latakia, facing resistance from Turkish-backed militants.

The Turkish presence in the area has led to a number of skirmishes with the Syrian military, with both sides using heavy weaponry and large-caliber cannons.

Last week, Turkish artillery pounded Syrian positions as militants launched a “major offensive” to retake lost ground. The barrage stopped only when Moscow contacted Ankara through a military hotline.

On the diplomatic front, Ankara locked horns with Russia, demanding that it pressure Damascus into ceasing its operation in Idlib. Moscow maintains that Turkey didn’t live up to its promise to separate the ‘moderate opposition’ from the terrorists.

However, despite intensified contacts between presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the fighting in Idlib has not waned so far. The two leaders are expected to meet before the end of the month.

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