Erdogan hopes Tehran summit will avert Idlib offensive

ISTANBUL: Turkey hopes a summit with Iranian and Russian leaders in Tehran on Friday will avert a Syrian regime offensive on the opposition-held Idlib enclave and prevent a new influx of refugees to Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are due to meet on Friday in Iran and are expected to discuss the situation in northwestern Syria. Turkey, which backs the opposition against Assad, has said an offensive on Idlib would be disastrous. Ankara is sheltering 3.5 million Syrian refugees.

“We will take the situation to a positive point at this summit … God willing, we will be able to hinder the Syrian regime’s extremism in the region,” the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Erdogan as saying overnight.

The president, who was speaking to reporters on his plane back from a visit to Kyrgyzstan, also spoke about the potential influx of refugees from Idlib to Turkey in the case of such an offensive, the Hurriyet said.

“In a situation like this, where will the fleeing people go to? A large proportion of them will come to Turkey,” he was quoted as saying.

Erdogan also said a roadmap for the northern Syrian city of Manbij endorsed by Ankara and Washington in June was not progressing well, according to the Hurriyet.

As part of the roadmap, Turkish and US forces are now carrying out patrols in Manbij to clear the area of YPG militants, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants on its own soil.

“We are not at an ideal point (on Manbij). Unfortunately, the agreement made is not going forward in the same direction as the initial discussions,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Later on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by phone to his US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, to discuss developments in Idlib and Manbij, as well as bilateral ties, a diplomatic source said, amid a widening row between the NATO allies.

Both diplomats agreed that a Syrian regime offensive in Idlib would be “an unacceptable, reckless escalation,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

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