Erdoğan urges global community to avert Idlib assault
WASHINGTON - Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s president has urged the international community to be aware of its responsibilities in Syria as an assault on Idlib looms.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan evaluated the latest developments in northwestern Idlib province and Turkey’s position on the matter in an article he wrote for the U.S. daily The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 10.
“All members of the international community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms. The consequences of inaction are immense,” Erdoğan said in the article titled ‘The World Must Stop Assad’.
Erdoğan also said the Syrian people could not be left to the mercy of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
“A regime assault [in Idlib] would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond,” he added.
He recalled the regime's criminal acts --arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, summary executions, barrel bombs, chemical and conventional weapons -- which targeted the Syrian people for seven years.
"As a result of the Syrian civil war, which the United Nations Human Rights Council calls ‘the worst man-made disaster since World War II’, millions of innocent people have become refugees or have been internally displaced," he said.
He also recalled Turkey's role in protecting the Syrian people, as it hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, at 3.5 million.
Erdoğan said despite being the target of terror groups Daesh and the PKK, Turkey did not lose its resolve to help Syrians.
"We have brought the Syrian opposition to the negotiating table in Geneva and launched the Astana process alongside Russia and Iran," he said, adding Turkey consequently managed “to broker ceasefires, create de-escalation zones and evacuate civilians from areas under regime attack".
Assad regime to launch massive offensive
Erdoğan warned that the Assad regime was preparing to launch "a massive offensive against Idlib" where some 3 million people live and is one of the few safe havens for internally displaced Syrians.
"In an attempt to prevent the assault, my government contributed to the creation of a deconfliction zone and set up 12 observation posts to document and report ceasefire violations," he said.
Stating that the Syrian regime was trying to legitimize its possible attack on the pretext of counterterrorism, Erdoğan said no country would appreciate the need to combat terrorism better than Turkey, as it has been the target of terrorist attacks since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
Erdoğan said the U.S., which is focused on chemical attacks by the Assad regime, needed to “reject its arbitrary hierarchy of death”.
“Conventional weapons are responsible for far more deaths,” he said.
He also said that stopping the “next bloodshed” in Syria was not only the West’s obligation, but Turkey’s partners in the Astana peace process -- Russia and Iran -- were also responsible for preventing a “humanitarian disaster”.
Erdoğan called for “a more comprehensive international counterterrorism operation” to eradicate terrorists and extremists in Idlib, stating that certain designated terrorist groups were active in the area.
"Idlib is the last exit before the toll. If the international community, including Europe and the U.S., fail to take action now, not only innocent Syrians but the entire world stands to pay the price.
"Turkey has done everything in its power to stop the bloodshed next door. To ensure that we succeed, the rest of the world must set aside narrow self-interest and throw its weight behind a political solution," he said.
The Syrian regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which has long been controlled by various armed opposition groups.
The UN warned last week that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".
Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.
On Sept. 7, Erdoğan called for a ceasefire in Idlib during a tripartite summit in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin.