Turkey beefing up its troops in Syria’s Idlib

UN chief pushes for protection of civilians in Syria's Idlib

Turkey deployed hundreds of its soldiers to 12 observation posts that ring Idlib, following a de-escalation agreement reached with Russian Federation and Iran a year ago to freeze the lines of the conflict, effectively placing Ankara as a protector of the province.

The UN has warned a full-fledged assault on Idlib could create the century's "worst humanitarian catastrophe", sending thousands more fleeing. Idlib makes up a major chunk of Syria's northwest corner, the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and forced millions more out of their homes, but the United Nations has warned that a full-blown attack on Idlib could bring unprecedented suffering.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Monday to discuss the situation in Syria's Idlib amid increasing Russian and Assad regime attacks on the last opposition enclave.

"We had come (to Idlib) without anything", he said. With the aid of Russian air power and military advisers, the Syrian Arab Army successfully broke the siege of Aleppo and rolled up Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants from much of its territory.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler on Friday visited the provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep bordering Syria where the country has reinforced troops in recent weeks.

The resulting impact on civilians has been dramatic, Laerke said, his concerns echoing those of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, who a day earlier had issued a warning about a military escalation in Idlib, after a recent meeting with Syria government officials in the country's capital.

"The refugees. will not be accepted into Turkey because previous experiences have shown that with such migrant waves, the entrance of radicals and terrorists into Turkey have been too much", the security official said.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement late Wednesday that 38,300 were displaced by the violence since September 1, a lot of them heading toward the Turkish-Syrian borders to already overcrowded displaced persons camps.

Most people made a dash for Syria's northern border with Turkey, with just under half seeking refuge in displacement camps, staying with local families or in rental apartments.

Ankara reached a deal with the European Union two years ago to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe, after the influx caused a political crisis in the bloc. "We have seen it in use before, and we strongly advise that it does not happen in this enclosed area, where the population has, I think, nearly doubled by the influx of evacuees and IDPs from other parts of the country".

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