'Don't let people die' Erdogan tells Tehran summit

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

Erdogan warns of 'massacre' in Syria's Idlib | Bangkok Post: news

The trilateral summit in Tehran between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been viewed as a chance for a diplomatic solution before unleashing a full-scale assault on Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

"We look to Russia, Turkey, Iran to come with hope to the civilians in Idlib", he said.

The Russian President emphasised that the numerous civilians living in Idlib province must be taken into account before executing any plan to bring about a solution to the conflict.

Erdogan and Putin along with their Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani will hold a series of bilateral meetings before going behind closed doors for the trilateral talks.

Earlier on Friday the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall the offensive.

While Turkish leader Erdogan proposed a ceasefire in the rebel-dominated bastion of Idlib in northwestern parts of Syria, President Putin affirmed that Russian Federation opposes the call for any truce with the rebels in the hope that the rebels opposing Assad's rule "would have the common sense to lay down their weapons and surrender".

"The only way they manage to smoke people out of the tunnels is by using chemical weapons".

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US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the Iran nuclear deal in May, and re-imposed the first batch of anti-Iran sanctions later in August.

Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute summed up the situation nicely: "In short, the Trump admin appears poised to commit us to a costly, unnecessary years-long commitment in Syria".

"The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are reaching their end", Rouhani said, while adding that terrorism must "be uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib".

Iran, Russia and Turkey all have their own competing interests over Syria.

Iran wants to keep its foothold in the Mediterranean nation neighboring Israel and Lebanon. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by the U.S.'s long uncertainty about what it wants in the conflict. Hence, five months after he said he wanted America "to get out" of Syria, Trump has now agreed to a major escalation of US action there.

A Syrian woman sits on a straw mat next to children outside a tent at a camp for displaced civilians fleeing from advancing government forces near the village of Sarman in the rebel-held northwestern Idlib province, September 1, 2018.

That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore militants, including those linked to Al Qaeda.

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James Jeffrey, who was named "representative for Syria engagement" by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said American troops will now be tasked with ensuring the exit of all Iranian military personnel and helping to build (as the Post puts it) "a stable, nonthreatnening government acceptable to all Syrians and the worldwide community".

Located in the northwest corner of Syria, along the border with neighboring Turkey, Idlib is the final stronghold of rebel fighters and jihadist extremists opposed to the Syrian regime.

A bloody offensive that creates a massive wave of death and displacement, however, runs counter to their narrative that the situation in Syria is normalising, and could hurt Russia's longer-term efforts to encourage the return of refugees and get Western countries to invest in Syria's post-war reconstruction.

For Turkey, the stakes couldn't be higher.

"Turkey has 12 observation points in Idlib". Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to newcomers. The three leaders whose nations are all under USA sanctions have an interest in working together, but Idlib is complicated and they have little common ground.

The plan will also secure the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province and mineral deposits in the region, it said.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations said western powers were trying to protect the Islamic extremist insurgent groups based in Idlib.

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