22:12 GMT +322 January 2019
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    Syrian northwestern city of Idlib.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Warns Damascus Against Attacking Syria's Idlib Province

    © AFP 2018 / Mohamed al-Bakour
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    ANKARA (Sputnik) - Any potential attack by the Syrian government forces on the country’s Idlib province may result in a "catastrophe," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

    "Currently the most important issue is for the ceasefire not be violated in Syria. If this is achieved, political settlement will become closer. There are many fragmented terror groups. Our intelligence service and the General Staff are dealing with the matter. We have achieved certain results. If the Syrian regime launches an attack tomorrow under the pretext of fighting against terrorists, it will be a catastrophe. This is why we are monitoring the situation and have established our observation posts," Cavusoglu told the TRT TV channel.

    READ MORE: Turkish Observation Posts in Syria's Idlib to Be Constructed in Week — Erdogan

    The foreign minister also accused Damascus of delaying the establishment of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which had been agreed upon during the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that took place in January in the Russian city of Sochi.

    "We have submitted our list of candidates to the Committee members, but the [Syrian] regime has not yet provided one of its own. Our Astana [peace process] partners, [Russia and Iran], say that they cannot force, convince it. But it has to be forced! It turns out that the regime does not want any solution," the minister stated.

    Cavusoglu has urged Russia and Iran to convince Damascus to accelerate the negotiation process on Syria in Geneva. He also noted that the Astana talks were more fruitful.

    As part of the Astana talks last year, Turkey, Russia and Iran, which are the Syrian ceasefire guarantor states, agreed to establish four de-escalation zones in the country.

    There are currently four agreed de-escalation zones in Syria, which has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011. The first in Idlib and parts of neighboring Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo provinces; the second in the north of the central Homs province; the third in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus; and the fourth in certain parts of the country's southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

    The agreement stipulated that the monitoring in the de-escalation zone in Idlib be carried out by Turkish, Iranian, and Russian forces, while the remaining zones would be maintained by Russian military police.

    READ MORE: Iran-Israel Tensions Likely to Rise on All Fronts, Including Syria — Analysts

    On Wednesday, the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff said the Turkish army had established the 12th — and final — observation post for monitoring ceasefire violations in Idlib.

    On Syria's Manbij

    Ankara expects to conclude a blueprint outlining the governance and security of Syria's Manbij with the aim of preventing tensions between Turkey and the United States with Washington in early June, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.

    "We had a preliminary agreement on Manbij, but since there was a shift in the US State Department we could not arrange it quickly, so a lot of time was wasted. Now, on June 4, they invited us and we hope that we will agree on the roadmap on Manbij," Cavusoglu said as aired by the TRT broadcaster.

    The foreign minister added that the withdrawal of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij would not be enough since stability should be ensured in the region.

    Washington's support for Kurdish militia in northern Syria and Iraq has been a stumbling block in Turkish-US relations. Ankara views the YPG and Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has received US military assistance, as affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terrorist organization outlawed in Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

    On January 20, Turkey and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition forces launched Operation Olive Branch in the Syrian northern district of Afrin aimed at "clearing" Turkey's Syrian border of the YPG and the PYD. In March, Ankara announced that Afrin was under complete control of Turkish forces. Erdogan, however, said that the operation would not end with Afrin, clarifying that the regions of Manbij and Idlib would be the next targets.


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    Mevlut Cavusoglu, Idlib, Iran, Syria, Russia
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