Turkey: Military Solution in Syria’s Idlib to ‘Cause Catastrophe’
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Russia on Friday that seeking a military solution in Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib would be disastrous.
“A military solution there will cause catastrophe,” Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Not only for the Idlib region but for the future of Syria, it will cause catastrophe and the clashes may last a long time,” he warned.
Speculation is increasing that there could be a Russian-backed government assault on the northwestern province, home to Syria’s last major rebel stronghold.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime still holds Idlib’s southeastern tip, and he has set his sights on retaking control of the region, which borders Turkey, calling this one of his priorities.
Cavusoglu warned of the risk heavy fighting would pose to the large civilian population.
“Civilians will be harmed. Where will the 3.5 million civilians go?” he asked, as Turkey has already taken in more than three million refugees from Syria.
During our visit to Moscow we were received by President Putin. #Turkey–#Russia relations continue in all fields on the basis of mutual respect and interest. We have intensified dialogue at all levels, in particular between President @RT_Erdogan and President Putin. pic.twitter.com/dCffSMh45E
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) August 24, 2018
Halt Refugee Influx
Idlib is one of the so-called “de-escalation” zones set up as a result of talks by Russia, Turkey and Iran last year.
Cavusoglu stressed the need to keep the de-escalation zone in place “to halt any refugee influx.”
“It’s also important for Turkey because they are on the other side of our border. They pose a threat to us first,” he added.
Nonetheless, rebel-backer Turkey considers “it is very important that those radical groups, terrorists are rendered ineffective,” he said.
As Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar for talks on Friday, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Moscow has presented proposals to Turkish officials on how to resolve the situation in north-western Syria.
Putin later met both the Turkish foreign and defence ministers in Moscow.
In televised comments, the Russian leader said that through the efforts of Russia, Turkey and other countries, they had “managed to seriously move forward in settling the Syrian crisis.”
Yet the situation in Syria remains one of the “burning questions” for Russia, he admitted.
Russia’s Lavrov on Friday called the situation in Idlib “multi-faceted” and called for separating out “the healthy opposition from terrorist structures.”
“When the de-escalation zone was created in Idlib, no one proposed using it for terrorists to hide behind the civilian population like a human shield,” he said. “Especially as they aren’t just lying low there. Raids are constantly coming from there as well as firing on the positions of the Syrian army.”
Deeper, Stronger Ties
During the meeting, Russian and Turkish politicians praised the state of bilateral ties, which they said were getting deeper and stronger.
“Our relations with Turkey are becoming deeper and more meaningful, becoming deeper in the field of economic cooperation, in addressing a number of issues related to regional issues,” Putin said.
“Relations between Russia and Turkey continue to cause envy for some others. We are preparing for the upcoming triple summit. We believe that it is important for us to work together to strengthen our bilateral relations and our business partnership in regional affairs. This is very important for regional peace,” Cavushoglu reiterated.