Published: Thu, September 06, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Iran's Zarif in Syria for talks on Idlib offensive

Iran's Zarif in Syria for talks on Idlib offensive

The northern province and surrounding areas are the last major swathe of territory held by insurgents fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been backed by both Russian and Iranian forces in Syria's seven-year-old civil war.

"President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province", Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon. "Don't let that happen!" he added.

Russian media outlet the Moscow Times says a large-scale naval exercise now underway in the eastern Mediterranean "coincides with rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria".

The Syrian army is getting ready to solve the "terrorism" in Idlib, according to the Kremlin, despite a warning from Donald Trump against a "reckless attack".

The US, with Britain and France, unleashed a missile barrage against Syrian facilities earlier this year after chemical weapons were used against civilian and rebel forces.

"Frankly speaking, I don't think there's anything the United States can do about it".

About 800,000 people are at risk of being displaced if the military action went ahead, according to United Nations officials.

On Aug. 29, Zarif visited Turkey and met with officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in reported talks on Idlib.

A Syrian child at a camp for those displaced from the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib.

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Eventually the rebels came to a reconciliation agreement with the Syrian government in which the fighters agreed to hand over their weapons to Syrian forces.

Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has warned that an assault by the Syrian army and its ally Russian Federation in Idlib could trigger a humanitarian crisis and unleash another wave of refugees from its southern neighbour. The heavy concentration of residents and fighters, analysts say, makes the province a powder keg.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that armed groups must be "cleaned out" of Idlib province in northwestern Syria, Iranian media reports.

Humanitarian organisations have warned of a potential catastrophe for the roughly 2.5 million civilians in the province should the attack go ahead.

The Red Crescent, like other aid organisations in Turkey, was "taking necessary measures in this regard, whether within Syria or within Turkey", he said.

He said he could not confirm the strike had been conducted by the US-led coalition present in the region.

"They're facing death, and Turkey has made it clear that they're not going to take them".

Any offensive on Idlib could raise tensions with Turkey, which maintains observation posts around rebel territory as part of a "de-escalation deal" with Russian Federation and Iran.

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