Turkey arms rebels as Idlib prepares for Syrian onslaught

15 September, 2018, 23:15 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Over 30,000 Displaced from Idlib Already Syria Faces Worst Catastrophe of Brutal Civil War			AREF TAMMAWI  AFP  Getty Images		11 Sep 2018

Turkey said on Friday it was talking to all parties in the Syrian conflict to prevent a government offensive on Idlib ahead of talks between Russian and Turkish leaders, who support rival sides in the looming battle for the rebel-held region.

Turkey, already hosting 3.5 million Syrians, says it can not take in another wave of refugees. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani back military action, despite a cease-fire call by their Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Washington and its allies have also warned Syria that they will act not just in case of chemical weapons being used, but against any attack on the province, the USA envoy to the United Nations said.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called a meeting about the crisis with senior officials from Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain and the USA in Geneva on Friday.

An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib, almost half of them having arrived there after being displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Earlier this week, President Erdogan warned that a regime assault on Idlib could create serious humanitarian crisis, security risks for Turkey, rest of Europe and beyond.

The issue of Idlib's fate has prompted intense diplomatic activity of late as Russian-backed Syrian government forces have continued to amass troops near the city of three million. Turkey has also gathered forces on its own borders to deter Syrian civilians fleeing the fighting.

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Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of various jihadist groups that once sought to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, with support from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers.

"Turkey is open to cooperation with everyone on efforts to fight terror groups in Syria", Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu Agency cited Cavusoglu as saying. The best way of doing this is to find a political solution.

Idlib's most powerful armed faction is the Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), which Ankara officially designated a "terrorist" group last month. We will continue our efforts in global platforms as well.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had also contacted foreign ministers of several countries and was in touch with "all actors in Syria".

The Turkish military does not comment on troop movements, but Reuters television footage has shown military convoys heading to the border region in the last week.

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.

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