Published: Sat, September 15, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

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

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

Syria's government, amid growing tension between its ally Russian Federation and neighboring Turkey, is holding off on a planned offensive on a major rebel stronghold, giving Ankara more time to persuade armed groups to disperse.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the meeting during a visit to Pakistan on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani back military action, despite a cease-fire call by their Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdoğan met with the leaders of Iran and Russian Federation last week in Tehran to discuss Syria, but a concrete ceasefire pledge did not came from the meeting. The UN has described it as a "dumping ground" for people evacuated and displaced from elsewhere in Syria during the seven-year war.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned Syria and its backers against a full-scale offensive in Idlib, saying it "must not be transformed into a bloodbath".

Turkey has resumed arming rebel fighters in Idlib, which is braced for an imminent offensive by President Assad.

Still, a meeting of presidential aides from Russia, Germany, Turkey and France devoted to Syria will take place in Istanbul on Friday.

"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.

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U.N. officials have notified Russia, Turkey and the United States of the Global Positioning System coordinates of 235 schools, hospitals and other civilian sites in the Syrian province of Idlib, in the hope the move will help protect them from being attacked.

Idlib and surrounding areas are home to almost 3 million people, half of them already displaced by violence in different parts of Syria. We will continue our contacts soon: "President Erdogan will discuss the situation in Syria with President Putin on Monday", the TV channel NTV quoted Cavusoglu as saying.

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.

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.

This is contrary to worldwide humanitarian law, the OCHA spokesperson said, adding that one of the hospitals was also in a protected "deconfliction zone", whose coordinates had been given to the warring parties to spare it from attack. "We have seen it in use before, and we strongly advise that it does not happen in this enclosed area, where the population has, I think, nearly doubled by the influx of evacuees and IDPs from other parts of the country".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow would keep bombing militant targets in Idlib if need be, but would also open humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee, the Interfax news agency reported.

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