China’s Syria envoy yesterday said that “terrorist organisations” including the Islamic State group are being revived in the war-ravaged country, urging the international community not to ignore the “early warning” signs.
Xie Xiaoyan, Beijing’s pointman for the Syrian conflict, made the comments after meeting in Geneva with the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen.
“There is now a danger of terrorist organisations like ISIS being revived,” Xie told reporters, using another acronym for IS. “The international community should pay attention.”
IS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” there, but offensives in both countries reclaimed the territory.
Xie’s Geneva visit came as concern mounts over a possible major offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Idlib, a jihadist-run area in the northwest which is the last major opposition stronghold in Syria.
The UN has warned that an assault on Idlib could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.
On the ground, jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from the town of Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria yesterday.
The town of Khan Sheikhun on the region’s southern edge has been a key goal for the government as it lies on the main highway through Idlib province connecting the capital Damascus with second city Aleppo.
Idlib has for several years served as a reception zone for those escaping government advances elsewhere in the country, who now number in their hundreds of thousands. Today they have nowhere to run in case of a full assault on Idlib.
Asked about Beijing’s position on a prospective of such an assault and the humanitarian fallout, Xie described the issue as “very complicated”.
“We all know that this is the last stronghold of some of the terrorist organisations... so this is an issue that needs to be dealt with,” he said.
“The fight against terrorism is not finished yet.”
Since January, Idlib has been administered by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate.