Washington, D.C. – U.S Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement regarding reports of escalated violence in Northwestern Syria:
“I am deeply concerned by the escalation of violence that has occurred in northwestern Syria in recent weeks. Indiscriminate shelling by the Russian Air Force and troops loyal to the Assad regime, particularly in the provinces of Idlib and Hama, have left hundreds dead and displaced thousands more.
“As the former U.S. Commander in the Middle East rightly argued, Russia plays the role of both ‘arsonist and firefighter,’ intentionally fanning the flames of regional violence and subsequently stepping in as a mediator – only to strengthen Moscow’s bargaining position.
“Russia agreed to abide by the Idlib deconfliction agreement. However, as we saw in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, Homs, and Deraa, Russia continues to bolster Assad in contravention of its own agreements when it finds them inconvenient.
“Continued violence risks worsening the humanitarian disaster for Idlib’s 3 million residents, many of whom are already internally displaced persons from Aleppo, Ghouta, Homs, and Deraa. The lack of security on the ground has forced a number of aid agencies to suspend operations, putting Syria’s most vulnerable at even greater risk during Ramadan. It is particularly concerning that schools, medical facilities, and places of worship are being targeted.
“The Assad regime and its Russian backers must cease their indiscriminate targeting of Syria’s civilian population and uphold their commitments under the Idlib deconfliction agreement, as well as UN Security Council Resolutions 2254 and 2449.”