The battle for Idlib: UN warns of a ‘perfect storm’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Iran to meet with his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani Turkish state television said

Russian Federation will begin a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced, a move the Kremlin said was justified by a failure to deal with militants in Syria's Idlib province.

The United Nations has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to delay a battle that could affect millions of civilians, calling for humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

Idlib has in recent years absorbed hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, many who refused settlements with the government elsewhere in the country.

The air force will consist of Tu-160 strategic bombers, Tu-142MK and Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, Su-33 and Su-30SM naval aviation fighters, it said.

"This is the condition set by Moscow to avert a broad offensive".

"Turkey's relationship with HTS is a complicated one but may best be framed as cooperative animosity", said analyst Elizabeth Teoman, of the Institute for the Study of War.

Russia has this month been actively expanding its naval forces in the Mediterranean, part of what a Russian newspaper on Tuesday called Moscow's largest naval build-up since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015.

"It is necessary to disassociate the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists and at the same time prepare an operation against them while minimising risks for the civilian population", Lavrov said.

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Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met the Turkish strongman for a hour but little filtered out on the nature of the discussions.

On August 30, Russian Foreign Minister said during talks with Walid Muallem, Syrian Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Foreign and Expatriates Minister in Moscowб that Moscow warning the West not to play with fire in Syria.

Russian media reported this week that Moscow has been reinforcing its military set-up in the region and now has 10 warships and two submarines in Syrian waters.

Now they have nowhere left to turn, after other opposition pockets have collapsed, and Turkey has largely sealed its borders to new refugees.

"The special envoy's role is not to call for a humanitarian corridor, but to call on Russian Federation to stop the aggression".

The office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe, and called for restraint. Miscalculations could lead to unintended consequences, including the possible use of chemical weapons.

"Short of going to Turkey, the civilians have no other option in order not to be where fighting may take place", Staffan de Mistura told reporters of the evacuation plan. They don't think any armed group in [Idlib] city is different than others, they consider them all terrorists.

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