US Spokesman to SY24: Idlib is the Last Resort for Escapees from Assad’s Brutality, and the Sochi Agreement Should not be Temporary

Nathan Tek, the US State Department's regional spokesman
Nathan Tek, the US State Department's regional spokesman

A US State Department official has said that the United States remains committed the achievement of a political solution in Syria, based on the outcomes of the Geneva process under the auspices of the United Nations. He noted that the northwestern province of Idlib has become the last resort for civilians fleeing Assad’s killing machine.

“There are more than three million Syrian civilians in Idlib, and more than half of them had previously fled their homes to other parts of the country. Idlib represents their last refuge from the brutality of the Assad regime,” said Nathan Tek, the US State Department’s regional spokesman, in comments made to SY24.

When asked about his government’s assessment of the recent agreement over Idlib between Russia and Turkey, the American spokesman said: “We have repeatedly called for easing the violence in Idlib. Rather than introducing another temporary arrangement, implementing a permanent ceasefire paves the way to a credible political solution to end the Syrian conflict, through the UN-led Geneva process.”

With regards to Russian efforts aimed at propping the Assad regime internationally and obscuring its criminal record through new processes like Astana and Sochi, the US diplomat explained that the United States continues to defend the diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations, working towards a political transformation that excludes the Assad family, as per UNSC Resolution 2254.
The US also rejects taking part in reconstruction efforts in Syria under Assad, according to the diplomat, as well as economic normalization with the regime, until it fully commits to the UN-led political transition process.

The regional spokesman for the State Department stressed that American priorities in Syria remain to be the defeat of Daesh and other terrorist groups, the reduction of violence, ensuring unimpeded civilian access to humanitarian assistance, creating the conditions for a credible political solution, and the removal of all forces under Iranian command from Syria.

Tek’s statements come amid uncertainty surrounding US decisions and goals in Syria, including whether it will withdraw its troops from the country or keep them there. “Our strategy for achieving these priorities remains unchanged”, said Tek. “As US envoy James Jeffrey said, American presence in Syria could mean either a military presence or a diplomatic one.”

After the downing of a Russian air force IL-20 plane in Syria in September, officials announced that Russia will be delivering S-300 missile systems to the regime.
The announcement raised international fears that the missile systems would end up in Iranian hands, at a time when the United States is working to counteract Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Commenting on these events, Tek said the US “holds Iran responsible for the incident that led to the downing of the Russian plane.” He added, “Iran is shipping arms to its proxies throughout Syria unhindered. This represents a threat to the stability of Syria.
As Defense Secretary Mattis said, we consider any military support extended to the Assad regime as counterproductive to the political process, which needs to continue if we want to resolve the Syrian crisis.”