Russian-Turkish Coordination on Limited Idlib Battle
A Russian source told Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday that the expected visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Ankara early next week comes in light of information about a possible agreement between concerned parties to facilitate the control of Syria’s Idlib province without causing huge damages.
Despite a Syrian military preparation to start the battle of Idlib, the Russian source said, “There could be an agreement to facilitate the takeover of Idlib without causing immense damages.”
Lavrov will visit Ankara on August 13-14 to take part in a conference of Turkey’s ambassadors and permanent representatives, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Thursday.
"He will address the ambassadorial conference and will have talks with the Turkish Foreign Minister," Zakharova said.
Earlier, Moscow failed to reach understandings with each of Tehran and Ankara on means to settle the situation in Idlib province.
“We expect a mixed military operation in Idlib that would reflect complex alliances,” the source said in a sign that any agreement in the province would probably be a reproduction of the scenario of control implemented in the south of Syria, amid differences among rebels concerning the role of Jabhat al-Nusra.
He said that a large number of opposition fighters could join the Syrian Army and the Russians to confront al-Nusra and its allied forces. “We would witness an alliance of the fait accompli on the ground,” the source explained.
Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria said the agency was making preparations for a battle and would ask Turkey to keep its borders open to allow civilians to flee if the need arose.
“The war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib. Idlib is a very special place, it is the place where people fled,” the UN top diplomat said.
Idlib, one of the last major rebel strongholds in Syria, is located near the border with Turkey.
According to the UN, a military offensive on Idlib could displace up to 2.5 million people towards the Turkish border.
Syrian regime helicopters dropped Thursday leaflets over towns in Idlib's eastern countryside urging people to surrender.
"The war is nearing an end ... We are calling on you to join the local reconciliations, as many of our people in Syria did," said the leaflets, which were stamped with the military's seal.