Turkey looks for diplomatic solution to avoid 'massacre' in Syria's Idlib

Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

"The fight against terrorism in Idlib is an indispensable part of the mission to return peace and stability to Syria, but this fight should not harm civilians and lead to a "scorched-earth" policy", Rouhani said.

"Millions of innocent people in Idlib province are now under the threat of imminent attack from the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russian Federation, under the pretense of targeting ISIS", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement accompanying the new sanctions. Erdogan and Putin along with their Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani will hold a series of bilateral meetings before going behind closed doors for the trilateral talks.

There are tens of thousands of rebels in Idlib Province, which borders Turkey.

Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been almost completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the worldwide community.

Turkey backs numerous rebel groups in the province but recently moved toward its negotiating partners in declaring that the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, is a "terrorist organization" that should be eliminated.

The province is home to some three million people - around half of them displaced from other parts of the country, according to the United Nations.

Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a senior aide in the Foreign Ministry, said the presidents would seek a compromise and that "Turkey and Iran are sufficiently mature politically to facilitate such a compromise".

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least nine civilians, including five children from the same family, were killed in the Russian raids, while 10 more people were wounded.

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Among them were positions of the HTS and Ahrar al-Sham groups, the observatory said.

Russian Federation first intervened in Syria in 2015, helping to turn the tide of the civil war in favor of President Bashar Assad's forces.

"Whatever reason there is an attack that has been made or will be made will result in disaster, massacre and humanitarian drama", he said.

Trump and his top officials have called attention to the impending Syrian government offensive in recent days, warning the Syrian regime and its backers Russian Federation and Iran not to use chemical weapons or recklessly cause civilian deaths.

The U.S. and its allies, however, believe it is Assad's forces who appear to be preparing a chemical attack in Idlib. "And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army", Putin said.

Erdogan has warned against such a catastrophic outcome, and has much at stake in efforts to prevent it at the Tehran summit.

"The regime and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms to allow the UN-led political process to have a chance to succeed", U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement. "There are indeed many more babies than there are terrorists in Idlib".

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