Erdogan Warns Russia, Iran Against Offensive In Syria's Idlib Province

Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, said Wednesday that he hoped to use the meeting to reach a deal and prevent an all-out attack on the border province.

"The Tehran summit can produce peace and reconciliation in Syria, or it can deepen the mess created by endless bouts of violence mainly instigated by the Assad regime", İlnur Çevik, a senior adviser to Erdoğan, wrote in the Daily Sabah newspaper.

But regime backers Russian Federation and Iran have sworn to wipe out "terrorists" and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has declared his determination to retake control of the entire country.

The top Iranian diplomat for Syria policy told Iranian media that Idlib posed a dilemma because it had to be liberated from "terrorists" but the security of millions of civilians had to be protected.

Two people were killed in the northwestern province by Russian airstrikes, according to a monitor, even as Russian leader Vladimir Putin arrived in Iran shortly after his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erodgan. Ankara, which has the most to lose should an offensive take place, has been trying to negotiate with opposition armed groups, including al-Qaeda-linked Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham.

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For Russia and Iran, both allies of the Syrian regime, retaking Idlib is crucial to complete what they see as a military victory in Syria's war after the regime forces recaptured almost all other major towns and cities, largely defeating the rebellion against Assad.

Naji Al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation, said Friday his fighters were prepared for a battle that they expect will spark a major humanitarian crisis.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources in Syria for its reports, said at least nine civilians - including five children from the same family - were killed in the raids, while 10 people were wounded. "And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army", Putin said.

Turkey also doesn't want to see another YPG/PKK-controlled area rise along its border, as it already faces in northern Iraq.

The Damascus regime is present in a southeastern chunk of the province.

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The Trump administration is walking back the notion of an imminent pullout of U.S. forces from Syria, promising to remain until there is an "enduring defeat" of ISIS.

Putin said the Syrian government should regain control over all of its territory. United Nations officials warned this week of a humanitarian catastrophe if a military offensive in Idlib moves forward.

Trump will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Iran during an annual gathering of world leaders in NY later this month.

All these agreements were later violated, however, as Syrian troops backed by Russian Federation and Iran moved to retake those areas after strafing them with artillery and air strikes - a pattern which could be repeated in Idlib.

Russian Federation will continue to kill "terrorists" in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria to bring back peace, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

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