Countries Race to Avert Syrian Offensive in Rebel-Held City by Farnaz Fassihi and Sune Engel Rasmussen – Wall Street Journal
The U.S. and European Union led a diplomatic effort at the United Nations on Friday to prevent a Syrian offensive on the opposition’s last stronghold, while Turkey’s president urged his counterparts in Russia and Iran to adopt a cease-fire allowing for rebels to lay down arms.
Diplomats and U.N. officials said they feared an attack on Idlib, a city in Syria’s northwest with three million civilian inhabitants, was imminent. The Assad regime’s elite army units and Republican Guards have been deployed to the area and now surround the city, diplomats said. Russia and Syrian warplanes this week began airstrikes on Idlib.
“We consider any assault on Idlib to be a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Syria,” said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley. “If Assad, Russia, and Iran continue, the consequences will be dire.”
Meeting in Tehran, the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran showed signs of friction, despite reaffirming their commitment to fight terrorism and reach a political settlement to end the conflict, now in its eighth year. Moscow and Tehran, the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have insisted the offensive is necessary to clear Idlib of “terrorists.”
In a joint appearance before cameras, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan twice called for a cease-fire from all sides in Idlib, allowing for a “reasonable way out.” With its economy under strain, Turkey doesn’t want to host more Syrian refugees and fears its troops on the ground in Kurdish areas of Syria will get caught up in the crossfire…