In a Wall Street Journal article, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the international community to take action, and warned that "the entire world stands to pay the price" otherwise.

Hundreds of civilians have fled villages near the front line in Syria's Idlib province fearing an imminent regime assault on the country's last major opposition and rebel bastion, a monitor said. (September 6, 2018)
Hundreds of civilians have fled villages near the front line in Syria's Idlib province fearing an imminent regime assault on the country's last major opposition and rebel bastion, a monitor said. (September 6, 2018) (AFP)

Turkey’s president on Monday urged the international community to be aware of its responsibilities in Syria as an assault on Idlib looms.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan evaluated the latest developments in northwestern Idlib province and Turkey’s position on the matter in an article he wrote for US daily, The Wall Street Journal.

“All members of the international community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms. The consequences of inaction are immense,” Erdogan said in the article titled ‘The World Must Stop Assad’.

Erdogan 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.

TRT World's Hasan Abdullah reports.

Erdogan recalled the regime's 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.

Erdogan 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.

Erdogan added that the US, 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.

TRT World's Abubakr al Shamahi is in Geneva, where the UN envoy is meeting officials from Turkey, Russia and Iran.

'Let's work together to eliminate terror'

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday also called on international allies to work together in Syria's Idlib with efforts to prevent civilian casualties.

"What we propose is very clear. Let's stop this civil war in Idlib. And if the concern is the presence of the terrorist groups, let's work together to eliminate them," Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with his Romanian and Polish counterparts in Bucharest, capital of Romania.

Underscoring the necessity of preventing civilian casualties, he further called on Russia, Iran, the US, France and the UK as well as all other partners and actors in Syria to work together and find a peaceful solution.

"I call on everybody to raise their voice and also stand against the aggression of regime in Syria and to find a peaceful solution," he added.

US vows strong response to chemical weapons

US President Donald Trump's national security adviser said the United States, Britain and France had agreed that another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would result in a "much stronger response" compared to previous air strikes.

"We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger," national security adviser John Bolton said while fielding questions after a policy speech.

"I can say we've been in consultation with the British and the French, who joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response," Bolton said.

US officials have said in recent days they have evidence that Syrian regime forces are preparing chemical weapons ahead of a planned assault on an opposition and rebel-held enclave in Idlib in the northwestern part of the country.

Looming humanitarian disaster

Violence in northwest Syria has displaced more than 30,000 people this month alone, the United Nations said, warning that a looming assault could create the century's "worst humanitarian catastrophe".

Idlib province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered opposition fighters, worn down by a succession of regime victories in recent months.

Regime leader Bashar al Assad has now set his sights on Idlib, and his forces have stepped up bombardment of the densely populated province since the beginning of the month.

That has prompted an estimated 30,452 people to be displaced within Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama province between September 1 and 9, the UN's humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said Monday.

TRT World's Oubai Shahbandar has the latest from Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border.

"We're deeply concerned about this recent escalation of violence, which has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 in the area. That's something we're monitoring very closely," OCHA spokesman David Swanson said.

Many made a dash for Syria's northern border with Turkey, with just under half seeking refuge in displacement camps and others living with local families or renting apartments.

Violence has displaced 30,000 people in Idlib and the adjacent province of Hama this month alone.

Idlib is home to some three million people – about half of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country, according to the UN.

TRT World's Sara Firth reports on the looming humanitarian crisis. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies