Moscow: Any Syrian government military offensive against Idlib, the last major rebel-held area of Syria, would result in a humanitarian catastrophe, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu said on Friday.
Cavusoglu, whose country opposes the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and provides active support to rebel forces, was in Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Efe news reported.
“Of course, we have to work to separate the militias from the civilians,” Ankara’s top diplomat said at a press conference. “The fight against the militants must continue, but doing this militarily would be a catastrophe.”
He said such an offensive would only spark prolonged armed conflicts.
Russia shares a close relationship with the Assad regime and continues to support Syrian government troops.
“For everyone, it is important to liquidate radical groups, because they are a threat to the national security of Turkey, Russia and western nations, that’s why they need to be differentiated from the civil population,” Cavusoglu said.
Idlib province, which backs onto Turkey to the north, is controlled by a tapestry of militias of varying ideology, from the Free Syrian Army to groups with links to or origins in Al Qaeda.
Over the last year, Idlib was used as a depository by the Assad regime for rebel fighters evacuated from elsewhere in the country.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are part of the so-called Astana process, which seeks to negotiate a solution to the Syrian civil war.