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Kremlin confirms preparations for Putin, Erdogan meeting on Monday

15 September 2018

Turkey sent in military reinforcements Thursday to beef up its positions inside Syria's last rebel bastion Idlib, activists reported, even as the Turkish defense minister said Ankara is still trying with Russian Federation and Iran to prevent a humanitarian tragedy in the case of a threatened Syrian government offensive.

Turkey, already hosting 3.5 million Syrians, says it can not take in another wave of refugees.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are expected to meet in the Russian city of Sochi on Monday.

During this process, the Western powers and Turkey have expressed dismay and rejection of such an offensive in Idlib, talking about a possible new influx of refugees to Turkey and Europe and the negative repercussion of a new wave of refugees, taking into consideration that foreign jihadists might infiltrate the ranks of civilians and reach Europe.

Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and are keen to see the last rebel-held province return to regime control.

Speaking to reporters after a United Nations -backed humanitarian task force meeting Thursday chaired by the US and Russia, Moumtzis said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners want to be ready for up to 900,000 people who could flee Idlib.

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The U.N. warned last week that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century". A senior security source said the army has reinforced 12 Turkish military posts inside Idlib itself. They later went to southern Syria, only to move again in a withdrawal deal when government forces defeated rebels there around two months ago.

Most people made a dash for Syria's northern border with Turkey, with just under half seeking refuge in displacement camps, staying with local families or in rental apartments.

Idlib also has a population of three million civilians, including a large number of people internally displaced by the seven-year conflict.

The Russian military has been fighting alongside Syrian government troops in the 7-year civil war.

It said that this support aims to "use military force against the Nusra Front if it rejected to dissolve itself and leave the areas of moderate rebels", without specifying the new destination for those militants. "We have seen it in use before, and we strongly advise that it does not happen in this enclosed area, where the population has, I think, nearly doubled by the influx of evacuees and IDPs from other parts of the country".

Kremlin confirms preparations for Putin, Erdogan meeting on Monday