France and Germany urge Syria summit amid fears of ‘bloodbath’ in Idlib
22 February 2020, 11:45
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called for a summit on Syria with Germany, Russia and Turkey to take place “as soon as possible” in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster in the country’s northwest.
“We must have a meeting as soon as possible with Germany, Russia and Turkey in the so-called Istanbul format”, Macron said after an EU summit in Brussels.
The French leader’s comments come as the UN warned on Friday that fighting in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the war-torn country, could “end in a bloodbath.”
“Russian-backed Syrian forces continue to advance in the Idlib region of north-western Syria, despite calls to halt this offensive,” Macron told reporters.
“It risks causing a humanitarian disaster, an escalation of the conflict and a migration crisis,” he said.
Turkey announced on Thursday that two of its soldiers were killed in northwestern Syria by an airstrike attributed to the Syrian regime.
“We have been very clear with President Erdogan and President Putin about their responsibilities,” Macron added.
Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the possibility of holding a summit during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
‘No clear decision yet’
“There is not yet a clear decision on this matter. If the four leaders deem it necessary, then we do not rule out such a meeting,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov.
The Turkish presidency did not comment but President Erdogan called for “concrete actions” to prevent a “humanitarian disaster” in the Syrian rebel province of Idlib during his talks with Macron and Merkel.
EU leaders called for an end to the Idlib offensive in a statement issued during their summit.
‘Deteriorating humanitarian situation’
”The unfolding crisis in northwest Syria and the terrible human toll on civilians” is now advancing into areas with the highest concentrations of people ”and threatening to strangle humanitarian lifelines,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday.
The UN chief said 2.8 million people in northwest Syria require humanitarian assistance.
This includes nearly 900,000 people –the vast majority women and children — who fled the latest Syrian offensive.
For almost a year, Guterres said, Syrian ground offensives supported by Russian airstrikes have targeted what was supposed to be a de-escalation zone in Idlib, and this month Turkish and Syrian forces have clashed repeatedly.
”All of this means that in addition to a dramatic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, we face the risk of an ever-more serious confrontation with increasingly unpredictable consequences,” the secretary-general warned.