UPDATE – Turkey aims to stop 'anticipated airstrikes' in Idlib


By Suleyman Elcin

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is aiming to stop anticipated airstrikes in Syria's Idlib, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday.

Speaking to the press in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, Cavusoglu warned against the possibility of a "serious humanitarian tragedy" in Idlib, reminding the fact that the region is a de-escalation zone where 3.5 million people live.

Cavusoglu said he expects clashes to end in Idlib and a political process to resolve the issue.

He added that Turkey is making efforts with Russia and Iran to deal with the Idlib issue.

"Our efforts are not limited with the summit held in Tehran on Friday," Cavusoglu said.

"In that summit a will was shown and its frame was drawn."

Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday called for a political solution to the crisis in Syria in a joint statement issued at the end of a trilateral summit in the Iranian capital Tehran.

"There can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and it can only end through a negotiated political process," the statement said.

– Call for cease-fire

"[They] reaffirmed their determination to continue active cooperation with a view to advance the political process in consistence with the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi and the UN Security Council Resolution 2254," the statement said.

The leaders expressed their "satisfaction with the achievements" of the Astana format since January 2017, in particular, the progress made in "reducing violence across the Syrian Arab Republic and contributing to peace, security, and stability in the country".

Cavusoglu said Turkey anticipated airstrikes in Syria's Idlib.

“Our aim is to stop airstrikes [in Syria’s Idlib]. We were anticipating attacks, which could have happened,” Cavusoglu said.

He said the Assad regime was protecting terrorist entities in Idlib.

"Terrorist groups in Idlib were sent or brought by the regime itself and its supporters from Aleppo, Hama, East Ghouta and even through the corridors opened from the south," he said.

He also said the Idlib problem should be solved through a cease-fire.

"The Idlib issue should be resolved in line with the agreement and the spirit of Astana.

– 'Let's do this together'

"And this should be the cease-fire. So the clashes should stop," he added.

"Radical groups should to be differentiated. We are saying it again and again. Let's do this together," Cavusoglu said.

He also said Turkey will put more effort into the Idlib issue so that there was no humanitarian tragedy.

Five civilians were killed and seven others injured in airstrikes carried out by Syrian regime forces and Russian warplanes in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Saturday, according to the White Helmets.

At least 26 civilians have been killed and dozens injured in airstrikes and attacks by regime forces and Russian warplanes in Idlib and Hama since the beginning of this month, the group said.

The Syrian regime has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in the area, which has long been controlled by various armed opposition groups.

The UN warned earlier this week that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".

A trilateral summit of the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran on Friday underlined that “there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict" and called for advancing the political process to reach a negotiated solution.