In Bid to 'Stop a Tragedy,' Russians Head to Turkey for Talks on Syrian Offensive in Idlib

Move comes after Russian-led Syrian forces entered the town of Saraqeb in a bid to capture the country's last rebel stronghold

Syrian rebel fighter fire a howitzer toward the government positions near the village of Nerab, in Idlib province, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. 
Ghaith Alsayed,AP

A Russian delegation will arrive in Turkey on Saturday for talks aiming to stop the Syrian government's offensive and halt a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria's northwest Idlib region, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.

Cavusoglu repeated Turkey would do whatever is necessary to stop a humanitarian tragedy in Idlib, where on Thursday Russian-led Syrian forces entered the strategic town of Saraqeb in a push to capture the country's last rebel stronghold.

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The fighting has already displaced half a million people since early December, and Turkey fears another wave of refugees heading for its border.

Eight Turkish military personnel were killed on Monday in shelling by Syrian government forces in Idlib province, where Ankara has sent reinforcements in the last week.

Turkey already had a dozen military observation posts positioned around a 'de-escalation zone' in the region agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, but several posts have now been surrounded by advancing Syrian government forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said that Turkish troops were establishing a new military post east of Idlib city, home to more than one million people, many already displaced from other parts of Syria.

Moscow and Tehran have supported President Bashar Assad during Syria's nearly nine-year conflict, while Ankara has backed rebels who sought to topple Assad.