TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – The Syrian government hit back on Thursday at French criticism of its military campaign in Idlib, saying it was targeting terrorist groups that were not party to an agreement to reduce fighting in the rebel-held region.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), citing a Syrian foreign ministry source, said the French foreign ministry had shown “great ignorance about what was happening in rural Idlib province”, which it said the army was fighting to “liberate from the terrorism of the Nusra Front and the other terrorist organizations that belong to it”.

The statement also rejected the French foreign ministry’s allegation that the army had targeted civilians or hospitals.

It described the French statement as an effort to mislead the French public opinion about what is happening in Syria.

“France should know that Jabhat al-Nusra is listed by the United Nations as a terrorist organization,” the source in the Syrian foreign ministry said.

What the Syrian Arab army is doing in that area is to liberate it from the terror of Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliated-terrorist organizations, the statement added.

It referred to the fact that Jabhat al-Nusra is not a party to Astana peace talks and therefore, those who provide the cover to this terrorist organization intend to provide support to it.

The statement said that France, whose citizens in Paris and other French cities suffered from Takfiri terrorism that threatens international peace and stability as a whole, should take clear stances towards terrorism and adopt a new approach that matches with the De Gaulle’s independent foreign policy.

The Syrian foreign ministry urged France not to echo the views of oil-Sheikdoms for financial interests.

France said on Wednesday it was extremely concerned by the government offensive in Idlib, the biggest remaining chunk of Syria still held by armed terrorist groups, and demanded that commitments made to reduce hostilities there be respected.

Turkey, which borders Idlib, has also called on Russia and Iran to put pressure on Damascus to halt the offensive.

Syrian army is targeting an air base in southeastern Idlib province. Jabhat al-Nusra elements are using Idlib as a base to conduct attacks on the Syrian army and its allies.

Combat UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) attacking Russian military facilities in Syrian Hmeymim and Tartus overnight into January 6 were launched from the de-escalation zone in Idlib, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced recently.

In accordance with a decision made by Russia, Iran and Turkey – the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire – in May 2017, de-escalation zones were set up in Syria. In mid-September, the guarantor countries announced the establishment of four such zones.

De-escalation zones include the Idlib province, some parts of its neighboring areas in the Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces north of the city of Homs, Eastern Ghouta, as well as the Daraa and al-Quneitra provinces in southern Syria.

Syria is in the final stages of a battle against Takfiri terrorist groups that poured into the Arab country after the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.

On November 19, the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group was flushed out of its last stronghold in Syria’s Al-Bukamal. The city’s liberation marked an end to the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate it had declared in 2014.