Last-ditch talks begin to avert disaster in Syria’s Idlib

Missiles streak across the Damascus skyline as the US Britain and France launch an attack on Syria

Missiles streak across the Damascus skyline as the US Britain and France launch an attack on Syria

Key brokers on Thursday held last-ditch talks on the fate of Syria's only remaining rebel-held province, hoping to stave off a government offensive which the United Nations has warned could spark catastrophe.

The U.N. worries that the offensive could force 2.5 million people toward the Turkish border. "That is why at every opportunity we say that we should be present on the field, be strong in the field, and succeed at the field", Erdogan said, speaking at a Victory Day reception in capital Ankara.

Grandi said an offensive threatens to cause many civilian deaths, fresh displacement and would also discourage refugees from returning.

Both he and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, accused rebels of preparing to stage a chemical attack in Idlib in order to blame pro-government forces and draw new USA military retaliation.

"I am once again prepared. personally and physically to get involved myself.to ensure such a temporary corridor would be feasible", Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.

The foreign-funded White Helmets group has been the most vocal accuser against the so-called "Syrian Regime", as was the case last April in East Ghouta when they accused Syrian President Bashar al Assad of using chemical arms against civilians. The leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russian Federation are slated to meet next week in Tabriz to discuss the mounting crisis.

The evacuation proposal reflected rising concerns that Idlib could become the site of the latest humanitarian disaster in a country that has faced many of them during a war that has killed over 400,000 people and driven more than 5.5 million to flee overseas.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on August 29 repeated the UN's warning "about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation" in Idlib.

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Civil Defense workers and Syrian citizens gather after an airstrike hit a market in Maaret al-Numan in southern Idlib, Syria.

This sentiment was echoed by de Mistura on Thursday, who called for humanitarian corridors to be opened in the province, and said he would travel there himself in order to secure them.

"But that area most likely is under government control", he said.

"We definitely intend to discuss it very intensely with the government", de Mistura said.

"In the course of this event, the grouping will practice a set of tasks of anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft defense, maritime communications protection, countering piracy and rendering assistance to ships in distress, as well as practical rocket and artillery fire", the admiral said.

The defence ministry told Russian news agencies that Russia would deploy 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the manoeuvres in the first week of September.

The Ustinov evidently cruised southward after its English Channel passage and eventually slipped through the Strait of Gibraltar before making what Russian news reports this week described as a "business call" at the port of Algiers.

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