Russian and Syrian jets pound Idlib province in Syria after summit

09 September, 2018, 04:25 | Author: Kim Reid
  • A general view taken with a drone shows part of the rebel-held Idlib city

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi, Russia November 22, 2017.

Rouhani focused on reconstruction and the need for Syria's displaced to return home, while also calling for the U.S. to immediately withdraw.

During a meeting of the UN Security Council in NY, the United Kingdom named individual Syrian regime commanders around Idlib and warned them they could face future war crimes charges if they went ahead with the attack.

Turkey could no longer take in any more refugees from any new assault in Idlib, he said. "Any attack on Idlib in the name of eliminating terrorist groups would undermine the Astana process", he added.

Analysts agree that the summit did not go well for Erdogan: Kerim Has, a Moscow-based analyst on Russian and Eurasian affairs, told Al-Monitor that the gathering revealed that a joint offensive carried out by Russia-backed regime forces and Iran-backed pro-regime militias "is very near".

Idlib is the insurgents' only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the last decisive battle in a war that has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee their homes.

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That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al-Qaeda-linked militants.

A Syrian man receives treatment at a small hospital in the town of Maaret al-Noman following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a nearby rebel-held town in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on 4 April 2017. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by America's long uncertainty about what it wants in the conflict.

Rouhani also said the battle in Syria would continue until militants were pushed out of the whole country, especially in Idlib, but he added that any military operations should avoid hurting civilians.

Trump has already launched two retaliatory strikes against Syria since taking office in response to chemical attacks that killed civilians, the second of which was done in conjunction with British and French forces.

A war monitoring group and rescue workers say at least four people have been killed in an intensifying government and Russian air campaign against the last rebel bastion in Syria.

"We hope that we will be able to reach an agreement and that our call for reconciliation in the Idlib area will be heard", the Russian president said.

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"The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table".

Turkish media estimate that 60,000 Sunni jihadists are in Idlib, some 15,000 of them non-Arab foreign fighters.

The groups would be offered safe passage to a buffer zone, under the surveillance of the moderate opposition on condition they hand over weapons to a loose coalition of other rebel groups backed by Ankara, it continued.

"Idlib is about a lot of worldwide power play and everyone is looking after their interests", al-Mustafa said. "The Turks have shown a great deal of resistance to an attack".

While the new USA special envoy for Syria said this week that America will stay in Syria until the complete eradication of the Islamic State group, there's little assurance that President Donald Trump won't again seek the withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in the country. In July, Boltonhad foreshadowed the shift of the administration's Syria policy when he stated during an interview on ABC's Next Week with George Stephanopoulos that the USA troops would remain in Syria indefinitely "as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East".

The United Nations fears a full-scale offensive could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians. The meeting, arranged by eight European countries, including both permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden), also involved members of the Syrian Negotiations Commission.

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