Erdogan Warns of Massacre as Syria Summit Ends in Deadlock

Erdogan Warns of Massacre as Syria Summit Ends in Deadlock

Erdogan Warns of Massacre as Syria Summit Ends in Deadlock

Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Russian-backed offensive.

Is this the beginning of the end to the seven year war in Syria?

Speaking to reporters, Jim Jeffrey, who was appointed in August as the State Department's Special Representative for Syrian Engagement, said Thursday that any such use of chemical weapons against the last rebel stronghold would be a "reckless escalation" of the conflict. Turkey supports Syria's rebels, while Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Though Jeffrey claimed that "Assad must go" was no longer US policy, he stated that "Assad has no future" while claiming that it was not the U.S.' "job to get rid of him".

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will host his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan this afternoon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted during the meeting that there can be no compromise.

If approved by the three presidents, it will be issued after the meeting, Mehr News Agency reported.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision has been made by the White House to use military force in response to a possible chemical attack, according to Reuters.

The Trump administration issued a series of new sanctions on the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ahead of what USA officials believe is an "imminent attack" by the regime with help from Russian Federation and Iran, according to an announcement by the Treasury Department.

What do we know of recent chemical weapons use?

"We think it's unacceptable when [someone] is trying to shield the terrorists under the pretext of protecting civilians as well as causing damage to Syrian government troops", Putin said.

"The government forces started their operations in provinces of Idlib, Hama and Aleppo three days ago".

"We don't find it correct that the (raids) happened before the Tehran summit", referring to the three-way summit of the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran on Friday.

Trump seems to have officially embraced regime change in Syria at the behest of his now-closest advisors, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, as well as rival rebels.

Putin pushed for a muscular military response to crush rebel fighters in Idlib, calling at one point for the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria". Crucially, the plan would also guarantee the security of the Russian air base of Hmeimeem.

Notably, in the past, Jefferyhas promoted US military intervention in other conflicts provoked by USA regime-change efforts, such as his advocacy for sending US troops into Ukraine in order "to send [Russian President Vladimir] Putin a tough message".

But Hassan Hassan, a Syria expert and a fellow at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said he is doubtful an offensive is imminent, pointing to Turkey getting US backing in opposing a major offensive. "Russian jet fighters and the regime ground forces can not afford attacks while Turkish soldiers are there", Kalin said.

Northwestern Idlib province and surrounding areas are home to about three million people, almost half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria.

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