Turkey’s Erdogan warns against ‘bloodbath’ in Syria’s Idlib; calls for ‘ceasefire’

09 September, 2018, 08:04 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Syria areas of control- map

For Russia and Iran, both allies of the Syrian government, retaking Idlib is crucial to complete what they see as a military victory in Syria's civil war after Syrian troops recaptured almost all other major towns and cities, largely defeating the rebellion against Assad. It was hoped that they might reach an 11th-hour agreement to avoid a bloodbath.

Idlib is home to some 3 million people and a regime offensive may trigger a new wave of displacement, driving refugees to Turkey which is already hosting more than 3.5 million Syrians.

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad, fears a military offensive will touch off a flood of refugees and destabilize areas it now holds in Syria.

Located in the northwest corner of Syria, along the border with neighboring Turkey, Idlib is the final stronghold of rebel fighters and jihadist extremists opposed to the Syrian regime.

The UN and aid groups have warned a military campaign in Idlib could spark one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the seven-year Syrian war.

This was Black's second trip to visit Assad, whom the Trump and Obama administrations have blamed for chemical weapons attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in rebel-held areas during Syria's civil war.

"If the world turns a blind eye to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people to further the regime's interests, we will neither watch from the sidelines nor participate in such a game", Erdogan said.

Putin ominously accused Western forces of protecting terrorists and faking chemical weapons attacks to discredit the Syrian regime.

Iran, Russia and Turkey leaders to meet for crunch talks on Syria
Turkey also doesn't want to see another Kurdish-controlled area rise along its border, as it already faces in northern Iraq. Noting that Turkey hosts 3.5 million refugees, he said: "Idlib's population is now 3.5 million".

"The solution is not to bomb or attack all over Idlib, without any distinction", said Cavusoglu.

Just months after proclaiming to the American public that USA soldiers will completely withdraw from Syria "very soon", President Donald Trump has reportedly agreed to a new strategy under which the more than 2,000 troops now occupying the war-torn nation will remain "indefinitely".

"We are not happy at all that the fate of Idlib is being decided in Tehran", said Awwad, who sported a black beard and wore a white shirt.

"If Assad, Russia and Iran continue, the consequences will be dire", she said. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by the U.S.'s long uncertainty about what it wants in the conflict.

Analysts agree that the summit did not go well for Erdogan: Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst on Russian and Eurasian affairs, told Al-Monitor that the gathering revealed that a joint offensive carried out by Russia-backed regime forces and Iran-backed pro-regime militias "is very near".

Idlib is the last of four de-escalation zones created under the auspices of the Astana Process in which rebels and their families were transferred to designated areas protected by a cease-fire. However, the Post article itself admits that 14,000 fighters in Idlib are linked to al-Qaeda, though the figure is likely much higher. Ankara has repeatedly condemned USA support of the YPG Kurdish militia in its fight against Islamic State, calling it a terrorist organization linked to the PKK insurgency inside Turkey.

Iraq's state-run Sabah newspaper reported that Erdogan said the next summit will be in Russian Federation, asserting that Ankara will not spare any effort to achieve stability in the region.

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