Erdogan urges ‘concrete action’ over Idlib crisis

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for “concrete action” to prevent a crisis in Syria’s last rebel stronghold in a phone call with his French and German counterparts, his office said Friday.

A humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the northwestern province of Idlib as the Syrian regime, backed by Russian airstrikes, presses on with an offensive that has forced nearly one million civilians to flee their homes.

“The president stressed the need to stop the aggression of the regime and its supporters in Idlib, and emphasized the importance of providing strong support through concrete actions to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” the presidency said following the call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Merkel and Macron spoke by phone on Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling for the fighting to the end and seeking a four-way summit including Erdogan.

A Kremlin spokesman told reporters on Friday that “the possibility of holding a summit is under discussion”, adding that there was still no clear decision.

Turkey has lost 16 military personnel in Idlib this month in clashes with Syrian forces and has bolstered its positions while calling for regime troops to pull back.

It is determined to prevent a fresh influx of displaced people adding to the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it already hosts.

Erdogan also addressed the conflict in Libya with Merkel and Macron, saying they should work together.

Libya has been mired in chaos since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Moscow backs military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last April against the rival government in Tripoli, which Turkey supports.

France has publicly denied taking sides in the conflict but analysts say it supports Haftar alongside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

After a recent peace conference in Berlin, countries including Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt agreed to end foreign interference in Libya and respect a UN arms embargo, but violations have continued.

© Agence France-Presse