US warns Syria, Russia on possible Idlib offensive

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Tuesday warned Russia and the Syrian regime against any potential offensive on the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.

"We would hold them responsible and we would hold them accountable for that, most especially for the use of chemical weapons,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“We would encourage Russia to make this point very clear to Damascus, that that will not be tolerated," she added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Friday that a possible military offensive on Idlib would be a "disaster".

“Preserving the de-escalation zone in Idlib, Syria is important in both humanitarian respects and the fight against terrorism," Cavusoglu said.

“Separating the civilians from the combatants in Idlib is important for everyone, but a solution through force would lead to a new wave of refugees and a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Located near the Turkish border, Idlib in May was designated a “de-escalation zone” where acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

UN officials estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.