Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, declared the need to “fight terrorists” in Idleb province in northern Syria, in a reference to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously Al-Nusra Front) which is a member of Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham.
This came during a press conference held by the two ministers on Tuesday in the Turkish capital Ankara. The Turkish Foreign Minister said that “it is not right to launch a full-scale war against Idleb province in northern Syria” but he indicated the need to “separate the moderate opposition from the terrorists. All those groups and also the civilians are very unhappy with these terrorists, we should all be cooperating.”
Cavusoglu said that “it is difficult to guarantee security in Idleb with terrorists present there,” according to the Russian Sputnik agency.
Ankara considers Al-Nusra Front (Hayyat Fatah al-Sham) to be a terrorist group and it was placed on Turkey’s terrorist lists in mid-2014. The group controls large portions of the province.
The Turkish Foreign Minister warned against bombing Idleb indiscriminately, saying that, “bombing all of Idleb on the pretext of there being terrorists means carrying out a massacre.” He declared his hope that a solution would be reached during his meeting with his Russian counterpart Lavrov.
“Nusra Is Outside the Deal”
For his part, Lavrov said that Moscow and Ankara were discussing the full implementation of the “de-escalation zone” deal in Syria, including in Idleb. He said that the situation in Idleb was the hardest because of the high number of “Nusra” fighers, as he put it.
The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that the de-escalation deals, into which Idleb was entered, does not include “Al-Nusra Front”, in a new indication of Russia’s intention to fight the group.
The Syrian opposition fear that massacres will occur if the regime and its allies carry out a military assault on the province. On Monday, UNICEF warned that a million Syrian children were at risk in Idleb alone.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.