DAMASCUS, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Saturday that retaking the northwestern province of Idlib from the rebels is a priority, saying it's the duty of the Syrian state to secure all its territories.
Al-Moallem made the remarks during an interview with Russia Today, whose content was cited by the state news agency SANA.
The minister, who was on a two-day visit to Moscow, said liberating Idlib will be either through reconciliation "which is what we are doing" or through a military action.
His remarks mirror the stance of the Syrian government, whose official repeatedly said that efforts to establish reconciliation in Idlib, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, are ongoing amid preparation for a wide-scale offensive if the reconciliation fails.
The situation in Idlib is complex as it has emerged as the main destination for the rebels who surrendered in many areas across Syria. The province contains an array of militant groups, including the ultra-radical Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), which is also known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.
The LLC is the strongest among other rebel factions in Idlib and it has completely rejected the efforts to establish reconciliation in that province.
The group rounded up tens of the reconciliation advocates in Idlib and it has foreign fighters among its ranks.
In his interview Saturday, al-Moallem said, "the Nusra Front in Idlib is designated as a terror group in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and there is a consensus between Syria and its allies on the necessity to liberate Idlib."
Al-Moallem noted that a humanitarian corridor was set up through the Abu Al-Duhur air base in Idlib, adding that through that corridor hundreds of families left rebel-held areas in Idlib toward government-controlled ones.
"The rebel factions that want reconciliation should declare their stance and commit to their pledges in the reconciliation process, which we are hoping to happen," Al-Moallem said.
On the Western threats to use force in case of an alleged chemical attack by the government forces in Idlib, al-Moallem said that the White Helmet organization, which is ostensibly rendering humanitarian services in rebel-held areas, is a Western-backed group that has kidnapped tens of children and smuggled containers of chlorine gas to areas in Idlib through the Nusra Front to stage the attack to frame the Syrian army.
He said the organization works in cooperation with the British secret services.
Al-Moallem said the preparations for an attack by the U.S., Britain, and France on Syria is not new as the three powers had struck Syria in April over the same allegations of chemical weapons use in the formerly rebel-held Douma district in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus.
The minister said the attack took place without an investigation, saying "no one believes such narratives" anymore.