Syrian opposition claims 'Iran-backed regime' on the run
Sweeping gains of the Syrian opposition are prompting Iranians to withdraw from Syria, Syrian National Coalition president Khaled Khoja tells AA in New York.

Sweeping gains of the Syrian opposition are prompting Iranians to withdraw from Syria, opposition Syrian National Coalition president Khaled Khoja claimed Wednesday.

In an interview with the Anadolu Agency prior to his briefing at a closed-door UN Security Council meeting in New York, Khoja spoke about the recent "wave of opposition advances” in Syria, which according to him, had begun to "revamp the conflict map” in the war's northern and southern fronts.

"We are not only fighting against the Syrian regime," said Khoja, who leads Syria's main opposition group recognized by the UN. "There is a clear Iranian involvement here," he alleged.

He said that "Iranian troops” had withdrawn from the south completely, and opposition forces had managed to ease the Iranian siege in various parts of the north.

Iran has been the main regional ally of the Bashar al-Assad regime since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011. However, it denies having troops on the ground in Syria, although it acknowledges providing logistics and training to regime forces.

The four-year civil war has seen more than 220,000 killed, according to UN estimates.

Khoja said that opposition forces took full control of the northwestern city of Idlib Monday with the capture of the "Brick Factory" military camp, which was the last regime stronghold in the strategic city.

"This factory is situated in a commanding position along the Damascus-Aleppo highway. Its capture will not only break the siege of Aleppo completely, but also will clear the way for a Free Syrian Army advance to Damascus," he said, referring to the Western-backed opposition military alliance.

Khoja said that Iran could be a part of the efforts to find a solution to the conflict only if it would withdraw "not only its troops, but also the mercenary forces it recruited in foreign countries," and endorse the Geneva Communique.

The 2012 communique calls for an immediate end to fighting and the formation of a Syrian-led transitional government.

Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura is expected to hold meetings in early May in Geneva with Syrian parties as well as regional and world powers to explore options for peace.

De Mistura said last week that Iran "is a major player in the region and has influence in Syria" and would be asked to attend.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces had also announced its intention to attend the meeting.

Khoja said that the main focus of his coalition during the talks would be its demands from the UN Security Council to alleviate the suffering of Syrians.

He said that they want the 15-member council to implement its past resolutions on the delivery of humanitarian aid and the prohibition of chlorine gas, and to emphasize accountability as part of a political solution.

In February 2014, the Security Council adopted a resolution to increase humanitarian aid access, calling on the Syrian government to allow aid agencies to enter the country. This was followed by another resolution in July 2014 that authorized cross-border and cross-line access for the UN and its partners to deliver humanitarian aid without the government's consent.

Although the resolutions were legally binding, they did not the present an immediate threat of punishment. Aid agencies recently said that the council had failed to implement its resolutions aimed at alleviating the suffering.

Another council resolution in March condemned the use of chlorine attacks in the country, but the Assad regime had reportedly continued to use barrel bombs filled with chlorine agents against civilians ever since.

Khoja also urged the Security Council to stop the regime's barrel bombs by establishing safe zones on the ground to "serve the immediate goal of saving lives and alleviating human suffering."

Last Modified: 2015-04-30 10:47:29
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