Russia, Iran reject calls for Syria ceasefire, backing offensive

US has seen evidence of Syria preparing chemical weapons in Idlib: envoy

The Tehran meetings could determine the scale and the timeline of the Idlib offensive, which the United Nations has warned may displace 800,000 people.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 68 air raids and 19 barrel bombs dropped on several towns and villages in Idlib and Hama provinces in less than three hours on Saturday.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib in keeping with the provisions of the Astana process.

That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Idlib health chief Munzer Al-Khalil said there was "great fear" in the province that the Syrian regime would ramp up its bombing and attempt to re-capture the area.

Washington says that the Syrian government forces may carry out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib and warned that such actions will have serious consequences.

Erdogan even tried quoting a Persian poet at Rouhani: "If you've no sympathy for human pain, the name of a human you can not retain". Yesterday, the leaders of Russia Syria and Turkey failed to come up with a plan to end the fighting immediately.

Erdogan argued his country cannot take in any more Syrian refugees and argued that a "rational solution" to the Idlib situation should be reached.

However, the summit's final communique made no mention of a ceasefire and when Mr Erdogan made a last-minute effort to insert the term into the text he was publicly rebuffed by Russia's president Vladimir Putin.




"The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table". The Turkish president is right, generally speaking.

But Russia's Vladimir Putin said on Friday a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve Islamist militant groups it deems terrorists.

Erdogan warned his counterparts that any assault by Syria's regime will lead to a "bloodbath" in Idlib province, where an assault is expected any day. The level of mutual trust between Turkey and Russian Federation is "very low", relations remain "fragile" and Idlib will "present new challenges" to them. Russian Federation has called Idlib a "nest of terrorists" and a "festering abscess".

One small source of comfort is the Turkish military presence in Idlib. Renewed chaos in Idlib could potentially jeopardise such gains, and draw its proxies into the crosshairs of the Russian air force, which played decisive roles in the battles for east Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, both of which have been returned to regime control.

"Turkey will have to decide in this summit whether to join the battle and influence it, or stay put and let the Russians and Iranians lead it". But without Russian buy-in, that would be a highly risky move.

The Kurdish forces said they had retaliated to regime fire. "There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared". However, Heller added in emailed comments to Al-Monitor, "with the exception of a few stray statements, it seems not to be promising any military intervention to halt an offensive".

That victory mean Kurds were pushed back from the frontier with Syria, from west of the Euphrates river, giving Turkey more leverage to shape its interests.

Asked whether there was still a chance the assault on Idlib could be averted, Dunford said: "I don't know if there's anything that can stop it". The official added, "Putin has mastered that tactic for Syria".

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