Friday, 16 November, 2018

Russian air strikes pound Syria's Idlib before key summit

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again Erdogan warns of 'massacre' in Syria's Idlib | Bangkok Post: news
Ebony Burgess | 07 September, 2018, 15:25

There is "lots of evidence" that chemical weapons are being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib in northwest Syria, the new USA adviser for Syria said on Thursday, warning of the risks of an offensive on the country's last big rebel enclave.

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran convened Friday in Tehran for a high-stakes summit that could shape one of the final battles of Syria's civil war.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that barrels of chlorine and munitions had been delivered to Idlib, while members of the White Helmets, which had been involved in the staged chemical weapons incident in the Syrian town of Douma in April, were getting their cameras ready.

According to the plan, 12 armed groups - including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib - would lay down their arms and be evacuated from the province, the newspaper said, without revealing its sources.

Speaking Thursday at the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Assad regime "and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms to allow the U.N. -led political process to have a chance to succeed".

When the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran meet in Tehran Friday, Sept. 7, all eyes will be on their diplomacy averting a bloodbath in Idlib, Syria's crowded northwestern province and last opposition stronghold.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian airstrikes on Idlib killed at least nine civilians Tuesday.

Melania Trump accuses op-ed author of 'sabotaging' the US
In the editorial, the unnamed administration official wrote of a coalition focused on thwarting Trump's "worst inclinations". But journalists at other papers suggested that the piece by the anonymous official was simply too remarkable to ignore.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has massed his army and allied forces on the front lines in the northwest, and Russian planes have joined his bombardment of rebels there, in a prelude to a possible assault.

Russian warplanes then carried out a second wave of strikes on the same target, preventing rescue workers from extracting victims from the rubble, he said.

In an effort to increase pressure on Assad, the US Treasury Department announced Thursday it was imposing sanctions on four individuals and five companies that have facilitated weapons or fuel transfers, or provided other financial or material support, to his government.

The final statement of the summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran has already been finalized by senior representatives from the countries, according to Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Iran's top negotiator in the discussions.

Though President Donald Trump has previously expressed a desire to pull United States forces out of Syria, Jeffrey said the President "is on board" with the new approach.

"Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation", envoy James Jeffrey told reporters. "The Turks have shown a great deal of resistance to an attack".

"We have killed, we are killing and we will kill terrorists. whether that be in Aleppo, Idlib or other parts of Syria".

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