Turkey reinforces military in Syria's Idlib after ceasefire call fails


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in another bid to avert a looming Syrian government assault on the rebel-held province of Idlib bordering Turkey that has sparked global concern.

Already hosting 3.5 million Syrians - the world's biggest refugee population - Turkey says it can not absorb more victims of the war and has accused the West of abandoning it to face the consequences of President Bashar al-Assad's reconquest of Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on September 17. They added that the expected attack by Syrian troops on Idlib province would make other battles in the country look minor.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Chief Paulo Pinheiro made the suggestion yesterday, echoing UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura's comments last week.

A full-scale military offensive on Idlib risks creating the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century, United Nations aid agencies have said, amid concerns that a severe funding shortfall threatens the most vulnerable victims of the conflict.

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.

Mr Cavusoglu said Turkey was ready to co-operate with anyone in the fight against terror groups in Syria, but criticised the Damascus regime for using the presence of extremist groups to legitimise a possible operation in Idlib.

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Ocha spokesman David Swanson said: "We're deeply concerned about this recent escalation of violence, which has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 in the area". He said the solution must be political.

Activists had said that the Nusra Front, otherwise known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for the Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), rounded up and killed tens of the reconciliation advocates in Idlib.

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

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

Also on Friday, the Turkish news agency reported that a meeting between German, Russian, French, and Turkish senior officials was underway in Istanbul to discuss the situation in Syria.

On Thursday, the Observatory said that 185 truckloads of weapons and military gears entered areas in Idlib from Turkey under the supervision of the Turkish forces, which maintain 12 observation points in Idlib and nearby Hama countryside.