Turkey to Russia: Syrian Offensive Triggering ‘Humanitarian Crisis’

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Ongoing Syrian regime efforts to push al-Qaeda-linked jihadis allied with Turkey-backed rebels out of the last opposition stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province is causing a humanitarian crisis, the Turkish president reportedly said Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced his concerns in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, the leader of a Syrian conflict monitor group denied Syrian regime claims that it has opened a “humanitarian corridor” to allow civilians to flee the onslaught in Idlib.

The Turkish president reportedly told Putin the Syrian regime attacks violated a ceasefire in Idlib and damaged peace-seeking efforts in Syria.

Erdogan’s office declared:

The [Turkish] president stated that the regime’s ceasefire violations and attacks in Idlib are causing a big humanitarian crisis, that these attacks are damaging the solution process in Syria and pose a serious threat to our country’s national security.

On August 27, Erdogan is planning to make a one-day trip to Russia, the Turkish presidency added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) denied claims by the Bashar al-Assad regime about opening a “humanitarian corridor” in Idlib.

“This corridor is placed by the Russians and the Syrian regime for media purposes to say that civilians are fleeing toward regime-controlled areas, Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the observatory, told Voice of America (VOA).

SOHR monitors the conflict in Syria through ground sources.

The regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad announced the alleged creation of the “humanitarian corridor” that would allow civilians to leave the region in and around Idlib on Thursday.

Assad considers all rebel groups to be terrorists.

The Syrian regime offensive has killed 500 civilians in and around Idlib in the past four months, the United Nations said, according to Haaretz.

Abdulrahman told VOA the fighting has also displaced 800,000 people.

Turkish Foreign Minister (FM) Mevlut Cavusoglu called for an immediate end to the fighting in Idlib. He claimed Turkish troops are staying in Idlib “out of choice, not [a] necessity,” Reuters noted.

The Turkish FM told reporters in Lebanon:

Nobody can keep our forces and soldiers trapped. We are discussing this issue with Russia and Iran. We are there not because we cannot get out, but because we do not want to get out. We are there in accordance with the deal we made with Russia.

On Monday, Russian and Syrian warplanes reportedly struck a Turkish convoy.

The convoy was allegedly carrying military supplies for Ankara-backed rebels who have joined forces with the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Idlib province.

Turkish troops find themselves in the line of fire between the forces loyal to dictator Assad and the alliance between Ankara-allied rebels and al-Qaeda-linked jihadis.

Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, Russia and Turkey reached a deal in September 2018 to establish a buffer zone in Idlib, free of jihadis and their weapons, but they failed.

Turkey and Russia blame one another for the failure in Idlib, a province primarily controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a U.S. designated terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

The deal was expected to avert a humanitarian catastrophe stemming from clashes between the Russian and Iranian-backed Assad regime and the rebels.

Turkey-backed rebels allied themselves with HTS against their common enemy — the Iranian and Russian-backed Assad regime — in May.

Since April, forces loyal to the Assad regime backed by the Russian military have launched an onslaught to clear the region in and around Idlib of the Turkey-backed fighters and jihadis.

Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists have established an Islamic emirate in the region in and around Idlib, considered the last jihadi bastion in Syria.

The U.S. government has recently warned that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has “resurged” in Syria and Iraq.

In March, the United States declared the demise of the group’s territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

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