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JEDDAH: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned Russia that seeking a military solution in Syria’s last opposition-held province of Idlib would be disastrous.
“A military solution there will cause catastrophe,” Cavusoglu said on Friday at a press conference in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Not only for the Idlib region but for the future of Syria; it will cause catastrophe and the clashes may last a long time,” he warned.
Cavusoglu’s remarks came as the Syrian opposition said that an offensive in the opposition-held province would be a real disaster “not only for Idlib, but for everyone.”
Idlib has more than 3 million Syrian civilians and several thousands of soldiers displaced from all over Syria, and some of them are backed by Ankara, opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
“Turkey’s national security is a very important issue in this regard. It has 12 military observation and surveillance posts all over Idlib. Iran and the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad militias want to have this military incursion. Russia is hesitant. The question to be asked is where would these 3 million people go,” he said.
Speculation is increasing that there could be a Russian-backed regime assault on the northwestern province, home to Syria’s last major opposition stronghold.
The regime and Iran, said Al-Aridi, cannot win such a war without Russian bombardment, which might kill “hundreds of thousands” and “we don’t know if Russia would be OK with such an action.”
He voiced concern over the possibility that the Assad regime and Iran could use chemical weapons “as probably this is the only way to carry out such a military attack.”
Al-Aridi added: “Also, we have to take into consideration around 70,000 Free Syrian Army troops who would not stand still.
“Any Assad or Iran ground troops would face an unbearable fate. If Russia carries out bombardment, it will come out as a tested war criminal. I have doubts about it happening. There could be some sort of settlement, especially if Al-Nusra could be convinced to dissolve itself or to get out of Idlib.”
The UN peace envoy for Syria will host Iran, Russia and Turkey for talks on drafting a new Syrian constitution on Sept. 11-12.
Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has been tasked with setting up a committee to write a new constitution for the war-ravaged country.
Representatives of the three nations will meet de Mistura over two days at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva.
De Mistura has said that he wants to have the constitutional committee in place before world leaders meet at the General Assembly in New York in late September.
De Mistura’s previous efforts to negotiate an end to the Syrian conflict have achieved no breakthroughs.