Syria President 'has been warned' on Idlib chemical use: Mattis

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Syria President 'has been warned' on Idlib chemical use: Mattis

The remarks by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an op-ed article published September 11, came as Russian and Syrian warplanes resumed a bombing campaign in the region, amid preparations for a major assault.

Erdogan failed to secure a pledge for a ceasefire from Russian Federation and Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main backers, at a trilateral summit in Tehran. "Such an operation would trigger a massive wave of refugees and tremendous security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond", adding that no security concern could justify risking millions of lives.

In the article, Erdogan said "All members of the worldwide community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms".

Washington claims that the Syrian government forces may carry out a chemical weapons attack in Idlib and warned that such actions will have serious consequences.

Idlib, known as the last stronghold for rebels who sought to overthrow Assad, faces a "perfect storm", United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said late last month.

Turkey has backed an array of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels during the war that spiraled out of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011.

Turkey is backing rebel groups and has troops in the country's north.

Erdogan's comments came just four days after meeting with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Tehran to develop a strategy to protect Idlib's civilians, where Erdogan failed to achieve his goal, a ceasefire in the province which is home to almost 3 million people.

FILE PHOTO: Turkey's Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar is seen during the EFES-2018 Military Exercise near the Aegean port city of Izmir, Turkey May 10, 2018.

The Turkish military now has a large presence inside the Idlib Governorate; however, it is still not clear whether or not they plan on confronting the Syrian government forces.

Although Erdogan has been a staunch supporter to the regime's opposition forces in an effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he has also been involved in talks with Iran and Russian Federation to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria which is entering its eighth year.

It also goes without saying that in the 21st century any use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable, said Guterres.

But Turkey is now looking to use the area as a potential refuge for civilians trapped in Idlib if it is unable to secure a buffer zone for civilians along the border in the event of a full-scale assault by pro-Syrian government forces.

"I also want to reiterate what I said last week to the Assad regime and anyone else contemplating the use of chemical weapons in Syria", Haley added.

"It is crucial for the USA, which has concentrated on chemical attacks, to reject its arbitrary hierarchy of death".

A further complicating factor for Turkish aid agencies is that many civilians themselves are now carrying arms for protection, making it harder to distinguish them from fighters.

According to the Russian defence ministry, Middle Eastern and USA television networks have already sent operatives into northern Syria to stage and film a fake chemical attack ahead of an expected Russian and Syrian government operation in Idlib, billed as the last major battle of the civil war.

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