United Nations official: Powers cite need for peace in Idlib


Turkey has said it is working with Russian Federation and Iran to stabilize Syria's rebel-held Idlib region, indicating continued efforts to avoid a Syrian government offensive in the area, where Ankara failed to secure a ceasefire last week.

Given the fact that Turkey has been part of a tripartite effort along with Iran and Russian Federation to establish de-escalation zones in northern Syria as part of the Astana process between the three powers, Ankara has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in case of such an attack while stressing at the same time that terrorists should not be tolerated.

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 U.S. envoy to the United Nations said.

The agency also warns that a possible offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib "would generate a catastrophic" humanitarian crisis.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura at a meeting in Geneva on September 14, 2018.

The U.S. warned Russian Federation on Wednesday that it will bear responsibility for the resulting humanitarian crisis in Syria if the Moscow-backed Syrian military attacks Idlib. Turkey has also gathered forces on its own borders to deter Syrian civilians fleeing the fighting.

"Turkey is open to cooperation with everyone regarding efforts to fight terror groups in Syria", he added.

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Idlib makes up a major chunk of Syria's northwest corner, the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

The observation posts were set up in the Idlib region previous year under an accord with Russian Federation and Iran designating Idlib and parts of neighboring provinces a "de-escalation zone".

"We are working intensively with Russia, Iran and our allies for peace and stability to be brought to the region and for a humanitarian tragedy to be prevented", he was quoted as saying on Thursday by the state-run news agency Anadolu.

Idlib's most powerful armed faction is the Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), which Ankara officially designated a "terrorist" group last month.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler on Friday visited the provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep bordering Syria where the country has reinforced troops in recent weeks. His comments were broadcast live on Turkish television.

"At the present time, as humanitarians, while we hope for the best, we are preparing for the worst", but "we are in no way ready for the worst-case scenario, if we were to see three million people head towards the Turkish border, in what would be a scenario that would exceed by far the capacity of all humanitarian organizations together", said Mr. Moumtzis.