Illegal US interference UU & # 039; s & # 039; s. in Syria must end, warns Rouhani as he meets Putin and Erdogan

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center) has said that the

The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has said that the "illegal interference" of the United States in Syria must end when it is today with its Russian and Turkish counterparts.

Rouhani attacked the & # 39; illegal presence & # 39; of the United States in Syria while holding talks with Russian Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

The leaders are discussing the imminent military assault in the Idlib region in northwestern Syria, the last major bastion of active opposition to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Rouhani said: "The presence and illegal interference of the United States in Syria that has led to the continuation of insecurity in that country, should end quickly.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center) has said that the "illegal interference" of the United States in Syria must end when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right), today .

Rouhani (right) attacked the & # 39; illegal presence & # 39; of the United States in Syria while holding talks with Russian Vladimir Putin (center) and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a final decisive battle for Idlib

Rouhani (right) attacked the & # 39; illegal presence & # 39; of the United States in Syria while holding talks with Russian Vladimir Putin (center) and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a final decisive battle for Idlib

Rouhani (right) attacked the & # 39; illegal presence & # 39; of the United States in Syria while holding talks with Russian Vladimir Putin (center) and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a final decisive battle for Idlib

Erdogan (center) called for a ceasefire and the end of the airstrikes in Idlib, something that was not immediately accepted by Putin (left) and Rouhani

Erdogan (center) called for a ceasefire and the end of the airstrikes in Idlib, something that was not immediately accepted by Putin (left) and Rouhani

Erdogan (center) called for a ceasefire and the end of the airstrikes in Idlib, something that was not immediately accepted by Putin (left) and Rouhani

Smoke rises near the Syrian village of Kafr Ain in the southern countryside of Idlib province after an air attack today

Smoke rises near the Syrian village of Kafr Ain in the southern countryside of Idlib province after an air attack today

Smoke rises near the Syrian village of Kafr Ain in the southern countryside of Idlib province after an air attack today

He said that the battle in Syria will continue until militants are expelled from all over the country, especially in Idlib, but that any military operation should avoid harming civilians.

He added that "we have to force the United States to abandon Syria." Rouhani did not elaborate on the comment, the United States has about 2,000 soldiers in Syria.

"The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are coming to an end," Rouhani said, adding that terrorism must be "uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib."

"The fight against terrorism in Idlib is an inescapable part of the mission to restore peace and stability in Syria," Rouhani told the summit in Tehran.

"But this battle should not cause civilians to suffer or lead to a policy of scorched earth," he added, amid UN warnings about a humanitarian disaster if an offensive occurs.

Putin insisted in Damascus that "the legitimate Syrian government has a right and must eventually control all of its national territory."

He warned the militants in Idlib that they planned "provocations", possibly including chemical weapons. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the long conflict.

Iranian and Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has underpinned the Damascus regime, which has allowed him to regain control in the seven-year civil war that has claimed some 350,000 lives since 2011.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and the adjacent areas make up the largest part of the Syrian territory that is still under the control of the opposition. It is home to some three million people, approximately half of them displaced from other parts of the country, according to the United Nations.

On Friday morning, Russian air strikes bombed rebel positions in the southwest of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Putin (left with Erdogan) warned the militants in Idlib that they planned "provocations", possibly including chemical weapons. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the long conflict

Putin (left with Erdogan) warned the militants in Idlib that they planned "provocations", possibly including chemical weapons. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the long conflict

Putin (left with Erdogan) warned the militants in Idlib that they planned "provocations", possibly including chemical weapons. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the long conflict

Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to new arrivals. Turkish leader Erdogan is photographed today with Putin

Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to new arrivals. Turkish leader Erdogan is photographed today with Putin

Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to new arrivals. Turkish leader Erdogan is photographed today with Putin

Among them are the positions of the jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), as well as the hardline group Ahrar al-Sham, said the monitor based in Britain.

Hundreds of civilians have already started fleeing Idlib before what could be the last, bloodiest, battle of the devastating conflict.

Meanwhile, Erdogan called for a ceasefire and the end of the airstrikes in Idlib, something that was not immediately accepted by Putin and Rouhani.

Turkey, which has long supported the Syrian rebels, fears that the assault will provoke an avalanche of desperate Syrians into its territory.

"We never want Idlib to become a bloodbath," Erdogan told his Iranian and Russian counterparts on Friday.

"Any attack launched or to be launched in Idlib will result in a disaster, a massacre and a great humanitarian tragedy," he said, and called for a ceasefire in the province.

"If we can secure a ceasefire here, this will be one of the most important steps of the summit," Erdogan said.

"Idlib is of vital importance not only for the future of Syria, but also for our national security, as well as for peace and stability in the region."

Each of the three nations has its own interests in the long-standing war in Syria.

Iran wants to maintain its position in the Mediterranean nation, neighboring Israel and Lebanon.

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad, fears an avalanche of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilizing areas it now has in Syria.

And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the gap left by the long uncertainty of the United States about what it wants in the conflict.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured today) says "we have to force the United States to abandon". Syria

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured today) says "we have to force the United States to abandon". Syria

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured today) says "we have to force the United States to abandon". Syria

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad, fears an avalanche of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilizing areas it now has in Syria. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by the long uncertainty of the United States about what it wants in the conflict

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad, fears an avalanche of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilizing areas it now has in Syria. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by the long uncertainty of the United States about what it wants in the conflict

Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad, fears an avalanche of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilizing areas it now has in Syria. And Russia wants to maintain its regional presence to fill the vacuum left by the long uncertainty of the United States about what it wants in the conflict

The province of Northwestern Idlib and its environs are home to some 3 million people, of whom almost half are civilians displaced from other parts of Syria. That also includes an estimated 10,000 hard core fighters, including militants linked to al Qaeda.

For Russia and Iran, both allies of the Syrian government, retaking Idlib is crucial to completing what they see as a military victory in Syria's civil war after Syrian troops recaptured almost all other major cities and towns, largely defeating the rebellion against Assad.

However, a bloody offensive that creates a massive wave of death and displacement contradicts his narrative that the situation in Syria is normalizing and could hurt Russia's long-term efforts to encourage the return of refugees and get Western countries invest in post-war reconstruction in Syria.

For Turkey, what is at stake could not be greater. Turkey already hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and has sealed its borders to new arrivals.

Syrian children are equipped with PAPER CUP gas masks while Assad prepares for the 'bloodiest battle'.

The terrified Syrians are making impromptu gas masks in paper cups amid fears that dictator Bashar al-Assad will launch chemical attacks during an attempt to seize the country's remaining rebel stronghold.

The images show party cups filled with cotton and charcoal placed on a child's face with a plastic bag tightened around his head in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib.

The desperate tactic comes when the UN warned that a regime attack in the region of nearly three million could unleash one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the seven-year war in Syria, displace 800,000 people and result in a "bloodbath" "

The terrified Syrians are making impromptu gas masks in paper cups amid fears that dictator Bashar al-Assad will launch chemical attacks during an attempt to seize the remaining rebel stronghold of the country.

The terrified Syrians are making impromptu gas masks in paper cups amid fears that dictator Bashar al-Assad will launch chemical attacks during an attempt to seize the remaining rebel stronghold of the country.

The terrified Syrians are making impromptu gas masks in paper cups amid fears that dictator Bashar al-Assad will launch chemical attacks during an attempt to seize the remaining rebel stronghold of the country.

The images show colorful party cups filled with cotton and charcoal that fit the face of a child with a plastic bag tightened around his head in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib.

The images show colorful party cups filled with cotton and charcoal that fit the face of a child with a plastic bag tightened around his head in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib.

The images show colorful party cups filled with cotton and charcoal that fit the face of a child with a plastic bag tightened around his head in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib.

Assad has concentrated his army and allied forces on the front in the northwest, and Russian planes have joined his bombing of rebels there, in a prelude to a possible assault.

A US official warned that there is "much evidence" that Syrian government forces are preparing chemical weapons in the region.

Civilians in Syria's last great bastion of active opposition to the Assad government are preparing food and digging shelters before an expected military offensive.

They also put their faith in neighboring Turkish diplomacy to avoid military action.

"We are preparing as little as we can: small primitive masks that we can put in our children's mouths in case they touch us with chemicals," Shahad said at age 20 from his village south of the city of Idlib, where he shares a home with his pregnant wife, three children and around another 15 people.

His brother, 35-year-old construction worker Ahmed Abdulkarim al-Shahad, shows the cavernous space under a cool courtyard covered in vines that the family has been digging and protecting from bombing since 2012.

"The military preparations, as we have seen, are in full swing … We, as civilians, have begun to prepare the caves," he said, showing glass bottles of pickled vegetables placed on the damp walls of the cave.

About three million people live in the rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria, which comprises most of the province of Idlib and small adjacent parts of the provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.

The desperate tactic comes when the UN warned that a regime attack in the region of nearly three million could unleash one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the seven-year war in Syria, displace 800,000 people and result in a "bloodbath" "

The desperate tactic comes when the UN warned that a regime attack in the region of nearly three million could unleash one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the seven-year war in Syria, displace 800,000 people and result in a "bloodbath" "

The desperate tactic comes when the UN warned that a regime attack in the region of nearly three million could unleash one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the seven-year war in Syria, displace 800,000 people and result in a "bloodbath" "

Hudhayfa al-Shahad fills a paper cup with cotton and coal in Idlib, Syria while making a makeshift gas mask

Hudhayfa al-Shahad fills a paper cup with cotton and coal in Idlib, Syria while making a makeshift gas mask

Hudhayfa al-Shahad fills a paper cup with cotton and coal in Idlib, Syria while making a makeshift gas mask

About half of them fled the fighting or were transferred there by the government under surrender agreements from other parts of Syria, as Assad has regained ground from the rebels.

The new US adviser to Syria, Jim Jeffrey, said on Thursday that there was "evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared."

"I am very sure that we have very, very good reasons to make these warnings," he said.

"Any offensive is objectionable to us as a reckless escalation, there is ample evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared."

The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond "quickly and vigorously" if government forces used chemical weapons in the long-awaited offensive.

Jeffrey said an attack by Russian and Syrian forces, and the use of chemical weapons, would force large refugee flows into southeastern Turkey or areas in Syria under Turkish control.

In April last year, a Syrian government fighter jet dropped sarin on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, killing more than 80 civilians, according to the UN Commission of Inquiry. He also said that Syrian forces have used chemical weapons, including chlorine, more than two dozen times during the war.

Damascus and its ally Russia deny these charges and say they do not participate in chemical warfare. The residents of Idlib are afraid and Washington has warned Assad against the use of chemical weapons in any offensive, promising an answer if he does.

Russia, ally of Assad, resumed air strikes against insurgents in Idlib on Tuesday after weeks of bombing and shelling of pro-Syrian government forces in an apparent prelude to a full-scale offensive against the last major rebel enclave.

It has also created control zones in northern Syria and has several hundred troops deployed in 12 observation posts in Idlib.

A government assault creates a nightmarish scenario for hundreds of thousands of people, including militants, who flee to their border and destabilize towns and cities in northern Syria under their control.

Naji al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the National Front for Liberation, backed by Turkey, said on Friday that his fighters were prepared for a battle that they hope will trigger a major humanitarian crisis.

"The least the summit can do is avoid this military war," he said.

Early on Friday, a series of air strikes hit villages in southwestern Idlib, attacked insurgent posts and killed a fighter, said Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Human Rights Observatory based in Britain. Abdurrahman said the suspicious Russian warplanes carried out the attack.

Turkey also does not want to see another area controlled by the Kurds along its border, as it already faces in northern Iraq.

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