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Turkish top diplomat warns against military operation in Idlib

A military operation in Idlib can provoke a flow of refugees and damage Russia and Turkey’s trust on Syria, says the Turkish top diplomat
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu  EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

MOSCOW, August 24. /TASS/. A military operation in Idlib can provoke a flow of refugees and damage Russia and Turkey’s trust on Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday during a joint press conference on the outcomes of the negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"Our goal is to eliminate the concerns of our Russian colleagues and to eradicate terrorists active in the region," he noted. "We can work together, but by removing, eliminating these radical groups, we may put civilians’ lives in danger. This can provoke a flow of refugees, drama, a human catastrophe, and, of course, this will hurt the trust established between Russia and Turkey on the Syrian issue, and undermine the authority of our countries. This is why we need to work on maintaining what we have achieved and think of what efforts we can make in this regard."

The Turkish foreign minister reminded that "Idlib is one of the de-escalation zones in the context of the Astana format." "There are about three million civilians," he continued. "When the humanitarian corridors opened in Aleppo, Homs and other cities, unfortunately, armed fighters filled the regions among with the civilians. Our observation posts document all that, of course."

"Currently, there are about three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and vast resources are spent to maintain them," Cavusoglu stated. "It is important for everybody to eliminate radical elements, radical groups and militants, because they present a threat to national security. This is also important to Russia and to the West, but we should work on disengaging terrorists and civilians carefully and accurately."

Syria’s new constitution

Ankara favors the urgent establishment of the committee to develop Syria’s new constitution, and in the future the Turkish delegation will hold corresponding negotiations in Geneva with Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Syria Staffan de Mistura.

"It is necessary to start the work to establish the constitutional committee as soon as possible," he said. "We will continue our efforts to establish this committee, and our representatives will visit Geneva soon to hold negotiation with Special Envoy for the UN Secretary-General [on Syria] [Staffan] de Mistura."

The Turkish foreign minister noted that the lists of Syrian opposition members were formed through Ankara’s efforts with support from Tehran and given to de Mistura for participation in the work of the constitution committee. "Our work is very important for Syria’s future and a political settlement of the situation in this country," Cavusoglu stressed.