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Turkey is working to reach ceasefire in Syria's Idlib - foreign minister

15 September 2018, 06:41 | Darnell Patrick

Turkey arms rebels as Idlib prepares for Syrian onslaught

UN chief pushes for protection of civilians in Syria's Idlib

Turkey sent in military reinforcements Thursday to beef up its positions inside Syria's last rebel bastion Idlib, activists reported, even as the Turkish defense minister said Ankara is still trying with Russian Federation and Iran to prevent a humanitarian tragedy in the case of a threatened Syrian government offensive.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, August 14, 2018.

Turkey deployed hundreds of its soldiers to 12 observation posts that ring Idlib, following a de-escalation agreement reached with Russian Federation and Iran previous year to freeze the lines of the conflict, effectively placing Ankara as a protector of the province.

Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to almost two million internally displaced people, who fled from other cities following attacks by the regime forces.

At the same time, Maas also underlined Berlin's demand for Moscow to use its influence to get President Bashar al-Assad to back off from a looming major offensive against opposition-held Idlib.

"We are ready to cooperate with everyone in the fight against terror groups but the killing of civilians, women and children under the guise of fighting against terror is not correct", he said.

Turkey has appealed for global support to its efforts to halt an offensive. Conditions are dire for numerous civilian women, men, and children in Idlib, especially for those who have already been displaced from other parts of the country and for those living in designated terrorist controlled territory.

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Thousands of fighters from Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta were relocated to Idlib in the past years, as part of agreements between the conflict parties.

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. The U.N. has warned that a battle will spark a humanitarian catastrophe.

Since the beginning of this month, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama - and dozens injured - by airstrikes and attacks by the regime and Russian warplanes, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday a Turkish convoy entered from Kfar Lusin crossing in northern Idlib, heading to some of the 12 Turkish observations points that ring Idlib.

"It appears that the Russians and the Assad regime have temporarily looked the other way", said one of the sources, Colonel Mustafa Bakour, a commander in the Jaish al-Ezza rebel group.

Another proposal is to open humanitarian corridors through which civilians could leave to government-controlled areas, although that suggestion has yet to gain any traction.



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