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Russia, Turkey Disagree on Idlib

Russia, Turkey Disagree on Idlib

Wednesday, 15 August, 2018 - 08:30
A general view taken with a drone shows part of the rebel-held Idlib city, Syria June 8, 2017. (File Photo: Reuters)
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey has reiterated its rejection of any military intervention by the Syrian regime and its allies in Idlib, while Russia maintained that the de-escalation agreement reached in the Astana talks on the Syrian province does not include “al-Nusra Front”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed Idlib during their talks in Ankara on Tuesday.

The different views of the two countries were reflected at their joint press conference, during which Turkey’s foreign minister said he hoped his country and Russia could find a solution over Idlib.

Cavusoglu said his country would not allow massacres in the province, citing the 12 Turkish observation posts set up in the vicinity of Idlib city under the de-escalation agreement.

Turkey, which supports factions of the Free Syrian Army, has established the posts, and is seeking to prevent the regime's attack on them for fear of a new wave of displacement.

“We should have a common strategy with Russia and other powers, identify and eliminate terrorists. Despite their presence, we cannot bomb the city, as it will result in mass casualties (among civilians). We should separate radicals and civilians. We must conduct the fight against terrorists together," Cavusoglu said in the press conference.

Many civilians and rebels displaced from different Syrian areas have taken refuge in Idlib. The area was hit by a wave of air strikes and shelling last week, which observers considered a possible prelude to a full-scale government offensive.

"The Idlib zone is home to more than three million civilians, but there are also terrorists from Eastern Ghouta, Aleppo and other zones there. They threaten the civilian population,” noted Cavusoglu.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Jan Egeland announced last week that Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed to “do their utmost to avoid” a battle in Idlib.

The Syrian army dropped leaflets over Idlib last Thursday, urging people to agree to a return of state rule, telling them the seven-year war was nearing its end.

Moscow wants to complete a plan for the return of displaced citizens to their areas, which according to observers, would be a declaration of victory for the regime.

Speaking at the news conference, Lavrov said Moscow was surprised at what he said was Western opposition to refugee returns to Syria.

By imposing sanctions against Russia, Turkey and Iran, Western countries were trying to influence the success of the Astana talks, indicated the Russian FM.

"Of course, we probably will not see any direct link to the Syrian crisis in the statements that the American side is making when it announces sanctions against our countries. But, objectively, of course, we feel the desire of the West, primarily the United States, but not only it, not to let the Astana process achieve substantive results and portray it as not entirely successful," Lavrov said.

“A huge (portion) of Syria has been freed of terrorists. It’s time to rebuild infrastructure, all living necessities for refugees from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and from Europe to start returning to their home,” indicated the Russian top official.

Lavrov explained that Syria and Russia have every right to self-defense and “we will support the Syrian army against al-Nusra Front and others.”

He noted that the main task now is to eliminate al-Nusra in Syria.

The two Foreign Ministers also discussed the upcoming four-way Syria summit with leaders of Russia, France, Turkey and Germany attending.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the summit will be held in Istanbul on September 7, and the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed it on Wednesday.

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