Kremlin confirms preparations for Putin, Erdogan meeting on Monday

Howard TerrySep 15, 2018

The Syrian army, backed by allies Iran and Russian Federation, is preparing for a military offensive to retake the country's last major rebel stronghold -the province of Idlib.

Turkey, already hosting 3.5 million Syrians, says it can not take in another wave of refugees.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are slated to meet Monday, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. They added that the expected attack by Syrian troops on Idlib province would make other battles in the country look minor.

Senior officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey met with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva Tuesday.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, Erdogan warned that an Idlib offensive would "create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond".

The UN said in a report in August that, "any military escalation, would lead to the displacement of around 900,000 civilians over the coming six months, including 700,000 people within Idlib alone".

Turkey has resumed arming rebel fighters in Idlib, which is braced for an imminent offensive by President Assad.

Weaponising chlorine is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by Syria, and under customary worldwide humanitarian law, the investigators said in their latest report.

Recalling Turkey's efforts to find a political solution to the ongoing Syrian crisis, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Friday that Turkey is working to reach a ceasefire in Idlib and the two presidents will discuss the issue on Monday.

Cavusoglu on Friday said Turkey was ready to cooperate with anyone in the fight against terror groups in Syria, but criticised the Damascus regime for using the presence of jihadists groups to legitimise a possible operation in Idlib.

Lavrov also said he doubted that evidence furnished by Britain to its allies in the affair was convincing - drawing an immediate rebuke from Maas.

"We can not bring peace that way".

Ankara failed last week to win agreement for a ceasefire from Russian Federation and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad's main backers, but there has been a recent lull in air strikes and a pro-Damascus source indicated a ground attack may not be imminent.

"We will keep the refugees in Syria for the safety of both Turkey and European countries".

Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the U.N.'s NY headquarters the majority of those displaced between September 1 - 9 have fled to northern Idlib near the Turkish border amid an escalating air and ground offensive by regime and Russian forces there.

But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, in comments on Wednesday evening, indicated that there were continued contacts with Russian Federation and Iran for a diplomatic solution.

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