Friday, 21 September, 2018

Turkey Steps Up Arms to Syrian Rebels as Idlib Attack Looms

UN chief pushes for protection of civilians in Syria's Idlib Turkey arms rebels as Idlib prepares for Syrian onslaught
Pablo Mccormick | 15 September, 2018, 18:38

Turkey sent in military reinforcements Thursday to beef up its positions inside Syria's last rebel bastion Idlib, activists reported, even as the Turkish defense minister said Ankara is still trying with Russian Federation and Iran to prevent a humanitarian tragedy in the case of a threatened Syrian government offensive.

In the provincial capital, Idlib city, and in towns including Kafranbel, Dana, Azaz, Maaret al-Numan and al-Bab, demonstrators filled the streets after noon prayers and chanted against Assad, raising the tri-color green, white and black flag that has become the banner of Syria's 2011 uprising, activists said.

The UN said as many as 800,000 people could be displaced by the assault on Idlib and the surrounding areas.

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"Don't test us again", she said, addressing the Syrian government and its allies Russian Federation and Iran.

Turkey deployed hundreds of its soldiers to 12 observation posts that ring Idlib, following a de-escalation agreement reached with Russian Federation and Iran previous year to freeze the lines of the conflict, effectively placing Ankara as a protector of the province.

MOSCOW - The Kremlin confirmed on Friday that it was preparing for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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Throughout the seven-year war, which has claimed more than 350,000 lives, Syrian regime forces have repeatedly been accused of targeting rebel-held areas with chemical attacks - mostly with chlorine but also with deadly sarin nerve gas. "We will continue our efforts on worldwide platforms as well", he said. Idlib makes up a major chunk of Syria's northwest corner, the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

The plan to assist a possible wave of displaced persons will be carried out through coordination with the QRCS mission in Turkey, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and other NGOs. It is up to parties to the conflict and the Governments that support such parties to protect the civilian population in Idlib and across Syria. A top United Nations official has warned that an attack on Idlib could lead to this century's worst loss of life.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had also contacted foreign ministers of several countries and was in touch with "all actors in Syria".

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U.N. officials have notified Russia, Turkey and the United States of the Global Positioning System coordinates of 235 schools, hospitals and other civilian sites in the Syrian province of Idlib, in the hope the move will help protect them from being attacked.

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