Erdogan on Idlib: We won't watch from the sidelines

Turkish leader says Turkey will not sit idly by, if the 'world turns a blind eye' to killing of tens of thousands.

    Erdogan said the killing of civilians would empower 'terrorist' groups [File: AP]
    Erdogan said the killing of civilians would empower 'terrorist' groups [File: AP]

    Ankara will not stand by and watch the loss of civilian lives in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned, after a trilateral summit with the leaders of Iran and Russia.

    In a series of tweets on Friday following the meeting in Tehran, Erdogan said disregarding civilian lives would "play into the hands of terrorists."

    "If the world turns a blind eye to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people to further the regime's interests, we will neither watch from the sidelines nor participate in such a game," Erdogan said.


    Turkey, he reiterated, was committed to the voluntary and safe repatriation of refugees and a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict.

    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hosted his Russian and Turkish counterparts - Vladimir Putin and Erdogan  - on Friday amid growing concern over a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib.

    The province hosts more than three million people, half of whom are internally displaced.

    The summit ended without an agreement as Turkey pushed for a ceasefire that was rejected by Russia and Iran, raising fears of an imminent offensive in Idlib by the Syrian government.

    Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports some of the rebels, who seek al-Assad's removal.

    Joint statement

    However, in a joint statement, Iran, Russia and Turkey said that the Syria crisis could only reach a final resolution through a "negotiated political process", not military means.

    The statement also called for the creation of conditions safe enough to allow the return of those displaced by the seven-year conflict.

    The talks in Tehran were held as Russian and Syrian fighter jets continued bombing various areas of southern Idlib province, killing several people, according to activists. 

    Idlib is the last major city still under Syrian rebel control.

    Buoyed by Russian and Iranian support, forces loyal to al-Assad have clawed back swaths of territory from the opposition. But those gains have come with accusations of chemical weapons use and the targeting of civilians.


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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