Trump: Erdogan trying to avoid tragedy in Syria’s Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to ensure a humanitarian catastrophe does not befall northwest Syria's Idlib province, U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

"He’s fighting on Idlib," Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One. "He doesn’t want people to be killed by the thousands, and hundreds of thousands."

Trump said Washington and Ankara are "working together" to determine what can be done amid a Syrian regime offensive backed by Russia and Iran that the UN said has led to the displacement of 900,000 people already.

"You have a lot of warring going on right now, a lot of warring going on, but I am dealing with President Erdogan," Trump said.

US will coordinate with Turkey on Syria's Idlib: US envoy to UN 

The U.S. will continue to coordinate with Turkey in Idlib, Syria where an ongoing offensive has displaced nearly 900,000 civilians since December, Washington’s envoy to the UN Kelly Craft said Wednesday.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting in New York, Craft said Washington "unequivocally" rejects statements by Russian officials "falsely blaming Turkey for the escalation of the violence" in northwest Syria.

"The United States will continue to coordinate with Turkey on diplomatic approaches to restore a cease-fire to the Idlib de-escalation zone and achieve a pullback of Assad regime forces to 2018 Sochi ceasefire," said Craft. "There is no doubt that the Assad regime and Russia, not Turkey, are responsible for orchestrating and executing this military offensive.”

UN envoy calls Turkey, Russia to work on Idlib conflict

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pederson demanded Turkey and Russia do their part Wednesday to deescalate the conflict in Syria's Idlib region. 

"Turkey and Russia, as the sponsors of the Idlib deescalation arrangements, can and must play key role finding a way to deescalate situation now," Pederson told the UN Security Council in a teleconference in Geneva.

The envoy said Russian and Turkish delegations met intensively in Ankara, Munich and Moscow and there had been presidential contacts between the leaders of the two countries. "But no understanding has yet emerged.”

He reiterated the UN is alarmed by the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in northwest Syria and the tragic suffering of civilians.

Russia ready to continue work on Idlib with Turkey

Russia is ready to continue talks with Turkey at any level on the tense situation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, the country's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday. 

The two-day consultations between the delegations of the countries, held in Moscow this week, ended without a conclusion, Lavrov said, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, following a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

"We have not put forward any new conditions [at the talks with Turkey]. We believe we need to implement all that our leaders had agreed on," Lavrov said.

The minister called the condition to separate the opposition from terrorists "a key agreement on Idlib", adding that terrorists cannot be part of the cease-fire.

Another point Russia insists on is to withdraw all the heavy weapons and militants form the demilitarized zone, situated in the Idlib de-escalation zone, he added.

Speaking about the attacks of regime forces in Idlib, Lavrov claimed they responded to the provocations, and that such moves do not violate the agreements on cease-fire in Idlib.

Russia 'in contact' with Turkey over Idlib: Kremlin

Russia said on Wednesday that it would stay in contact with Turkey to avoid further escalation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged compliance with a 2018 Russia-Turkey memorandum on Idlib negotiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

"We were satisfied with the agreements more than a year ago in Sochi -- and this was mutual satisfaction. We stopped being satisfied when militants and terrorist groups began taking offensive action against the Syrian armed forces and Russian military facilities from the territory of Idlib," said Peskov.

A phone call between the presidents of the two countries has yet to be scheduled, but that one could be arranged within hours, he added.

Commenting on a possible Turkish military operation in Idlib, Peskov said this could either end in a good or bad scenario.

"If we are talking about an operation against terrorist groups in Idlib, this would be in line with the Sochi agreements because it is Turkey's responsibility to neutralize these terrorist groups," he said, adding that an operation against the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime would represent a "worst-case scenario."

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's parliamentary group in the capital Ankara that launching Turkey's cross-border operation into Idlib, northwestern Syria, is just "a matter of time".

Meetings with Russian officials on ending the bloodshed in Idlib, a conflict-battered province covered by a nominal cease-fire, have failed to produce results, ending "far from what Turkey wants," said Erdogan.

"The potential for further mass displacement and even more catastrophic human suffering is apparent, as an increasing number of people are hemmed into an ever-shrinking space," he added.

Turkey expects parties in Idlib to act on Sochi deal

Turkey expects parties in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province to conform to their commitments under the Sochi deal with Russia, the country's defense minister said on Wednesday.

“Withdrawing from our observation posts [in Idlib] is out of question,” Hulusi Akar told reporters before attending his Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting in the capital Ankara.

Akar said any attack on Turkish observation posts would be retaliated.

"We expect the parties [in Idlib] to rapidly comply with their commitments under the Sochi deal such that a cease-fire could be achieved and bloodshed can be stopped," he said. "We have complied and we expect the other parties to do the same."

Akar said the situation in Idlib had a military, security and defense dimension, adding that “the humanitarian aspect” should be considered as well.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed the Sochi deal on Sept. 17, 2018. Both the sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.