Erdogan calls for Idlib ceasefire at Tehran summit

Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

An offensive on Idlib will lead to a bloodbath for civilians and a humanitarian tragedy, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday to journalists.

Erdogan reiterated his government's concern over the potential death toll of an offensive in highly populated Idlib, where an estimated 3.5 million people are now living.

Turkey is anxious that an attack on Idlib will trigger a mass exodus of refugees fleeing towards the Turkish border. "They are fleeing to areas near Turkey where they hope to be safe from further aerial bombardment". "We do not have power and facilities to host another 3.5 million". "Turkey can not take in more", said President Erdogan.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nation's Syria envoy, made a personal appeal to Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to work together to find a "soft solution to this crisis".

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in anticipation of a destructive offensive, has called on all parties to protect civilians in Idlib - many of whom fled government offensives in other parts of the country and have scarce means to sustain their families through another displacement.

Jeffrey, who just returned from a trip to the Middle East and Turkey, called the situation in Idlib "very dangerous" and warned Syria and Russian Federation against an assault.

Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive.

Russia, which has been building up forces in the region, said it's only targeting al-Qaeda fighters, and accused the US of preparing to fake a chemical attack to justify new intervention.




Moscow has won the war in Syria, but can it win the peace? .

Syrian Army troops have been steadily fortifying positions along the front lines around Idlib over the past few weeks and are expected launch an all-out assault on the province in coming days. He suggested that regular drone attacks on the Russian military site should be stopped by pushing those launching them out of range.

The 2,200 or so troops now stationed in Syria will stay, even though their stated primary goal of ousting ISIS "has almost been completed", notes The Washington Post. The meeting will focus on Iran's nuclear program and its meddling in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Putin's remarks on the situation in Syria tilted towards humanitarian aspects and the necessity to reconstruct the country.

Idlib's population has swelled as the regime chalked up a series of victories in other parts of the country, reaching evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of people bussed to the northwestern province. Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria since the start of the war in 2011. "The government has provided security guarantees to all returnees, assuring that they would not be subjected to discrimination, including in terms of property rights", he said.

"You still need moderate opposition groups who represent the Sunni suffering masses in Syria to achieve a viable political solution and durable peace in this country", he wrote. Erdogan disagreed with Putin, saying that the return of refugees to Syria would only be possible after a new constitution is agreed and adopted, and an election held to form a new government.

As the conflict approaches its endgame, Iran, Turkey and Russian Federation are seeking to safeguard their own interests after investing heavily militarily and diplomatically in Syria.

"We think it's unacceptable when (someone) is trying to shield the terrorists under the pretext of protecting civilians as well as causing damage to Syrian government troops", Putin said.

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