Nasrallah says Hizballah to stay in Syria 'until further notice'
Hizballah will stay in Syria "until further notice", the leader of the Lebanese movement Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday in a televised address.
"We will remain there even after the Idlib accord," Nasrallah said, referring to a Russia-Turkey deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive on the country's last rebel-held stronghold.
"We will stay until further notice," he stressed, speaking on the eve of the Shia commemoration of Ashura.
"Our presence there is tied to necessity and to the consent of the Syrian leadership," said Nasrallah, whose Hizballah movement is backing the Damascus regime in the ongoing conflict.
Hizballah officially entered the Syrian war in 2013 on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, who is also backed by Iran and Russia.
Moscow's military intervention in 2015 marked a turning point in the conflict and enabled Assad to secure a series of victories against rebels.
The regime now controls nearly two-thirds of the country and Nasrallah said such a change in fortunes would inevitably affect operations.
"Naturally, the calm of the front lines, and the decline in threats will have an impact on the numbers present," he said.
Some 1,665 Hizballah fighters have been killed in Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Moscow and Ankara - which supports some rebel groups - agreed on Monday to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib, averting a regime assault on the province.
"With the Idlib accord, if everything is done correctly, we can suppose that Syria will head towards a great calm, and in concrete terms there will no longer be front lines," said Nasrallah.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.