Turkish president to visit Iran for talks on Syria

07 September, 2018, 16:28 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will host his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan this afternoon.

America's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned any military offensive in Idlib "would be a reckless escalation".

"The fight against terrorism in Idlib is an indispensable part of the mission to return peace and stability to Syria, but this fight should not harm civilians and lead to a "scorched-earth" policy", Rouhani said.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that "millions of innocent people in Idlib province are now under the threat of imminent attack from the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russian Federation, under the pretense of targeting ISIS".

According to the pro-government Turkish daily newspaper, Sabah, Turkey will propose Friday a plan that includes disarming militants and evacuating them through safe corridors to a buffer zone.

An estimated15 to 20 percent of the 60,000 to 70,000 Syrian rebels in Idlib are believed to be terrorists and Jeffrey said the United States "asked repeatedly for permission" from the Russians to rid the area of the terrorists in order to avoid a mass assault.

Turkey has limited sway over the jihadists who control an estimated 60 percent of the province, but it backs other rebel groups and has 12 military "observation points" across the area.

A major assault would be devastating for the almost three million people living in the northwestern province, many of them rebels and civilians who were moved out of other areas as they came back under regime control.

Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a senior aide in the Foreign Ministry, said the presidents would seek a compromise and that "Turkey and Iran are sufficiently mature politically to facilitate such a compromise".

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Among them were positions of the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, as well as of the hard-line Ahrar al-Sham group, the Britain-based monitor said.

Assad's government has been massing thousands of troops in preparation for an assault.

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, fears a flood of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilising areas it now holds in Syria.

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.

As in other regions taken by Ankara-backed rebels, Turkey will later train a rebel force to ensure Idlib's security.

Washington warned Tuesday that if Damascus were to use chemical weapons, it would respond.

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.

Putin was to hold a meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the sidelines of the summit, according to Russian news agency TASS.

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