Kremlin dismisses Trump warning on Syria's Idlib

Hannah Rogers
September 4, 2018

A Syrian war monitor said Russian air strikes had resumed against the opposition and rebels in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on Tuesday after several weeks.

Rebels said the strikes had mostly targeted military positions of the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Turkistan Islamic Party in the Jisr al-Shughour district, although at least three civilians were reported to have been killed.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and adjacent areas form the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands.

Zarif paid a day-long visit to Damascus on Monday and held talks with the country's senior officials, including President Bashar al-Assad, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and Prime Minister Imad Khamis, as Syria is preparing for an operation to liberate Idlib Province, the last major militant stronghold.

"We know that the Syrian armed forces are getting ready to solve this problem", President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, calling Idlib a "pocket of terrorism".

De Mistura told reporters that ongoing talks between Russian Federation and Turkey held the key to averting an assault on the region, but six reported air strikes on Tuesday suggested the Ankara talks were not going well.

"The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy".

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He added: "Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed".

US President Donald Trump has also warned Syria against "recklessly" attacking Idlib province. "Don't let that happen!"

Half of Idlib's 3 million people have already been forced there from their homes in other parts of Syria, according to the United Nations, and any offensive there threatens new displacement and human misery.

In his opinion, "making some kind of warnings without paying attention to the risky, negative potential (of the situation in Idlib) for the whole situation in Syria is possibly not the fullest or comprehensive approach".

The leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russian Federation are expected to meet on 7 September in Iran to discuss the situation.

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said an all-out assault on Idlib and its catastrophic consequences could still be avoided.

"Just to speak out with some warnings, without taking into account the very unsafe, negative potential for the whole situation in Syria, is probably not a full, comprehensive approach", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Restoration of Damascus's control of this province will put an end to large-scale military confrontation in Syria.

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