Turkey calls for ceasefire in Syria's Idlib, Russia opposes

Geneva Stokes
September 7, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin however, said that he was against a ceasefire because Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters located there were not part of peace talks. United Nations officials warned this week of a humanitarian catastrophe if a military offensive in Idlib moves forward.

Russian Federation will continue to kill "terrorists" in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria to bring back peace, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

"The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russian Federation and Iran", the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

Putin - travelling with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov - met with Erdogan before the trilateral talks. Turkey could no longer take in any more refugees from any new assault in Idlib, he said. Both say they target only militants.

Turkey backs numerous rebel groups in the province but recently moved toward its negotiating partners in declaring that the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, is a "terrorist organization" that should be eliminated.

Northwestern Idlib province and surrounding areas are home to about three million people - almost half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources in Syria for its reports, said at least nine civilians - including five children from the same family - were killed in the raids, while 10 people were wounded.

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Tuesday's bombardment hit several areas held by the jihadist-led Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, among them the town of Jisr al-Shughur, but also areas held by rival Turkish-backed rebels, according to Agence France-Presse.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime has retaken large swathes of the country from rebels and militants since Russian Federation intervened militarily on its side in 2015.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday at the meeting that an attack on Idlib would result in a disaster and massacre, and that millions of people would be moving towards the Turkish border in the case that an attack took place.

The White House on Tuesday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that if he uses chemical weapons against his people again, the United States and its allies "will respond swiftly and appropriately".

Russia, which has been building up forces in the region, said it's only targeting al-Qaeda fighters, and accused the USA of preparing to fake a chemical attack to justify new intervention. Jefrey said the goal is to produce a political solution in Syria that stops the fighting and prevents conditions for a return of ISIS or another extremist group.

His comments come as Syrian troops mass near the northwestern region of Idlib for a major assault that is raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not yet seen in the seven-year-old conflict.

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