The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Syrian government offensive in the rebel-held Idlib province which the United Nations fears could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians.
Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, meeting in Tehran for a summit of key foreign players in Syria’s war, agreed in a final statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict and it could only end through a negotiated political process.
|Russia, Turkey, Iran fail to agree on ceasefire for Syria's Idlib
But as Syrian government and Russian warplanes mounted air strikes in Idlib on Friday morning in a possible prelude to a full-scale offensive, Putin and Rouhani pushed back against Erdogan’s call for a truce.
The Turkish leader said he feared a massacre and Turkey could not accommodate any more refugees flooding over its border.
Putin said a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve Islamist militant groups it deems terrorists. Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.
Idlib is the insurgents’ only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the war’s last decisive battle.
Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.