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Russia’s UN envoy: Too late to establish no-fly zone over Syria

February 19, 5:17 UTC+3
"When everyone is flying and bombing, there’s no talk of no-fly zones," Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said
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A miltiary helicopter above the Russian air base in Syria

A miltiary helicopter above the Russian air base in Syria

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. It is too late to speak of establishing a no-fly zone above Syria, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said in an interview with the Kommersant-FM radio and the Kommersant business daily.

"When everyone is flying and bombing, there’s no talk of no-fly zones," Churkin said.

"Theoretically, it may be imagined that during implementation of the agreement on ceasefire, a proposal will be voiced not to use airspace, but this is purely theoretical question formulation, all the more so in conditions of our presence in Syria," he said.

No-fly zone proposal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her proposal to establish a no-fly zone along the Syrian-Turkish border on Wednesday. In her view, airstrikes by Russia and the Bashar Assad troops "are out of line with the spirit of the resolution adopted by the United Nations in December and thus efforts to reduce the level of violence."

Merkel said it would be a good sign "if a deal between Assad and his allies and the anti-IS coalition is reached" that would ensure establishment of "something like a no-fly zone where there would be no bombings and civilians would not be subjected to pressure and murders" on the territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border.

Syrian Foreign Ministry reaction

A spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that Merkel’s proposal to establish a no-fly zone in the north of Syria is unacceptable and is aimed to support terrorists.

"Syria does not accept the proposal by the German chancellor [on possible establishment of a no-fly zone in the country’s north], which is interference in Syria’s domestic affairs, violation of its sovereignty, the principle of inviolability of borders and totally contradicts international law and the UN Charter," the statement said.

The ministry said that such statements by Merkel "coincide with the demands of the Turkish authorities, which are aimed at protection of terrorist groups and feed crimes of extremists against the Syrian people."

Such statements, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, "protract the resolution of the [intra-Syrian] conflict and do not in any way contribute to the search for ways out of the crisis."

Russia’s operation in Syria

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were deployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia.

On October 7, 2015, four missile ships of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria. On October 8, the Syrian army passed to a large-scale offensive.

In mid-November 2015, Russia increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria to 69 and involved strategic bombers in strikes at militants.

Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries.

Russia’s aircraft have made thousands of sorties since the start of the operation in Syria.

According to UN statistics, fighting between Syrian government troops and militants has killed over 220,000 people and displaced millions since its start in 2011. Gangs of militants making part of various armed formations, the most active of them being the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, fight government troops.

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