Syria's Idlib 'must not be transformed into bloodbath': United Nations chief

Syria's Idlib 'must not be transformed into bloodbath': United Nations chief

Turkey's president warned of a humanitarian disaster if a Syrian government offensive on the rebel enclave of Idlib goes forward.

At the summit in Tehran, Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani agreed in a statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict and it could only end through a negotiated political process.

The Turkish leader also criticized Assad's bid to legitimize the fight in Idlib as a counter-terrorism operation.

Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces celebrate on after taking the al-Mastumah base in the Syrian city of Idlib.

Meanwhile Turkey, which already hosts three million Syrian refugees, is keen to prevent an assault that would see hundreds of thousands more mass along its border.

Idlib faces "the worst humanitarian catastrophe" of the century, the United Nations warned on Monday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned Syria and its backers Russian Federation and Iran against launching a full-scale offensive in Idlib, saying the rebel-held province "must not be transformed into a bloodbath". The Syrian Network for Human Rights, known for its more conservative estimates, has verified over 6,000 civilian deaths caused by Moscow.

Turkish security sources on the ground in Idlib told MEE that they had visited areas where members of HTS, other fighters and civilians were all living in the same building and all carrying weapons. The terrorist organization is controlling almost 60% of Idlib, the place where anti-Assad organisations deployed.

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Complicating matters, the Turkish armed forces also have several outposts in Idlib in support of rebel groups.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis declined to say Tuesday whether the USA would take military action against the Syrian regime should it use chemical weapons, but he did say Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has "been warned". The world will hold them responsible.

Previously in the campaign to reclaim eastern Ghouta, it signed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate halt to fighting, a declaration it immediately disregarded in favour of its own orchestrated "humanitarian pauses" and nightly bombardment.

"In this sense, a military operation in Idlib would only play into the hands of terrorists", he said.

"Today, we have started with 20 trucks", he added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of the consequences to the West of the offensive on Tuesday. Beyond the risky prospect that the strikes could escalate the conflict (particularly given the Russian and Iranian presence in the country), they would also make it more hard for the United States and Russia to cooperate on a shared plan in Syria.

Turkey is willing to cooperate with Assad allies Russian Federation and Iran in rooting out terrorists in the region, which is home to some 3 million people, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

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