Thousands protest in Syria's Idlib against possible Assad offensive

08 September, 2018, 00:36 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Donald Trump and Bashar al-Assad

Russia, Iran and Turkey are meeting in Tehran Friday to discuss what could happen in the next few weeks.

All the parties of Friday's talks - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Russian leader - have already gathered in Tehran. Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Mr. Assad, fears a flood of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilising areas it now holds in Syria.

Besides, many dislocated people will be flooded to Turkey's borders, which is out of Ankara's control, he warned.

Russia's Mr Putin said a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve the Islamist militant groups it deems terrorists.

"To fight terrorism in Idlib is inevitable and part of a mission to bring about peace and stability to Syria", Rouhani said.

Idlib is the insurgents' only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the war's last decisive battle. The U.N. and Western countries have blamed Assad's forces for chemical weapons attacks in the civil war, something denied by Russian Federation and Syria.

Putin pushed for a muscular military response to crush rebel fighters in Idlib, calling at one point for the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria".

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Putin responded: "The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table". Asked whether Trump had signed off on what he called "a more active approach", Jeffrey said, "I am confident the president is on board with this". It would be good. "But we cannot say for them - any more than we can say for the al-Nusra front or IS - that they will stop shooting or stop using armed drones", Putin noted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with Putin on Friday that Iran and Russian Federation can work together to restrain America and that Syria is a good example of how American can be restrained, according his official website. "Because America is a danger for humanity and there is a possibility to restrain them".

To justify keeping American troops in Syria for an "indefinite" period of time, the Trump administration's new strategy redefines us "objectives" in the country from "defeating ISIS" to ejecting all Iranian military forces and proxies from the country-despite the fact that Iran's presence in Syria, unlike America's, is at the invitation of the Syrian government.

There are an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al Qaeda-linked militants, in the province.

Among them were positions of the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, as well as of the hardline Ahrar al-Sham group, the Britain-based monitor said.

In addition to attempting to expel Iranian forces, the Trump administration's new "strategy" in Syria will also consist of the "establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the worldwide community", notes the Post.

Efforts must be made to protect and to create conditions for the safe return of refugees, it added. He added that Syria should retake all of its territory.

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He called on all rebels in Syria to disarm and seek a peaceful end to the conflict.

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.

"If we can ensure a ceasefire here, this will be one of the most important steps of the summit, it will seriously put civilians at ease", Erdogan said. Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria since the start of the war in 2011.

"Any attack launched or to be launched on Idlib will result in a disaster, massacre and a very big humanitarian tragedy".

The Assad government was not directly represented at the summit, nor was the United States or other Western powers.

Mr Putin, Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, and Iran's Hassan Rouhani all agreed there could be no military solution to the conflict.

Meanwhile, the fate of Idlib hung in the balance.

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