Military solution in Idlib would be a ‘disaster’: Turkish FM

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 24: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) hold joint press conference after their meeting in Moscow, Russia on August 24, 2018. AFP PHOTO

Turkey and Russia need to continue working together to pursue the cease-fire in Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday, warning that a possible military solution in the northwestern city of Idlib would be a “disaster,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow after meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Çavuşoğlu said, “Preserving the de-escalation zone in Idlib is important both a humanitarian aspect and in the fight against terrorism.”

Stressing that more than 3 million civilians live in Idlib, he said: “A military solution there would be a disaster. It would be a disaster not only for the Idlib region but also for the future of Syria.”

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

“A solution by force in Idlib would undermine the trust between Russia and Turkey as well as the trust of the cease-fire participants.”

“It is necessary to work in the Astana format on the [existing] cease-fire, it is necessary to work on promoting the political process,” he said, referring to the process that began in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Representatives of the guarantor countries for the Syria cease-fire — Turkey, Russia and Iran — will meet with Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special Syria envoy, on this point in the near future, added Çavuşoğlu. The issue will also be discussed by the three countries’ presidents in Tehran in September, he said.

Çavuşoğlu also said the political process in Syria should be started as soon as possible.

Stating that a list of member candidates for a constitutional committee had been summited, Çavuşoğlu said: “Establishing a constitutional committee immediately is important for Syria’s future. We back this process.”

The situation in Idlib is also set to top a meeting between the Russian and Turkish foreign and defense ministers and intelligence chiefs.

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 Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.

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

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