UPDATES TO ADD MORE QUOTES FROM GERMAN AND RUSSIAN FMs; ADDS MORE DETAIL; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – Russia is trying to facilitate creation of humanitarian corridors in Syria’s Idlib to prevent civilian casualties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas following their meeting in Berlin, Lavrov said talks were underway between Russian and Turkish officials on the situation in Idlib.
“We are facilitating local negotiations, local agreements between moderate opposition groups and the Syrian government, same as it was in other de-escalation zones,” Lavrov said.
“And we are also assisting in creating humanitarian corridors and safe havens for civilians,” he added.
German Foreign Minister Maas warned that a large-scale military offensive by the Syrian regime would lead to a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which is home to more than 3 million civilians.
He called on Russia to use its influence on the regime to avert a massive military attack, and prevent the use of chemical weapons by the regime.
“Russia has certain influence over the Syrian regime and we hope that this influence will be used,” he stressed.
Earlier on Friday, Lavrov promised that they would take measures to prevent civilian casualties in Idlib, which is the last opposition stronghold in Syria.
"Whatever we do, we will try to keep in mind the issues and the interests of civilians in that area… a humanitarian corridor will be created in Idlib, just as we did in Homs and East Ghouta," he said, during a meeting of the German-Russian Forum.
"We will not act in the way the U.S.-led coalition acted in Mosul or in Raqqa when there were no negotiations about local cease-fires with opposition groups," he said.
Lavrov said the details would be discussed next week at a meeting between Russian and Turkish presidents.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are expected to meet in the Russian city of Sochi on Monday.
Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to nearly two million internally displaced people, who fled from other cities following attacks by the regime forces.
Thousands of fighters from Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta were relocated to Idlib in the past years, as part of agreements between the conflict parties.
Earlier this week, President Erdogan warned that a regime assault on Idlib could create serious humanitarian crisis, security risks for Turkey, rest of Europe and beyond.