Syria's FM stresses determination to recapture last major rebel stronghold of Idlib

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Russian Federation and Syria have denied planning any chemical attacks and have charged that the extremist Hayat group - with backing from the West - is planning to stage one and then blame it on the government, creating a pretext for Western air strikes.

The area, which has been controlled by rebels since 2015, has been targeted by government and Russian Federation air and artillery strikes for months, devastating infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

But Lavrov on Wednesday called on the West not to stand in the way of what he described as an "anti-terror operation" in Idlib, which borders Turkey.

"At our meeting with Nasr Al-Hariri, president of Syrian Negotiations Commission, we exchanged views on recent developments in Syria, including Idlib and also the period ahead concerning the political process", Cavusoglu wrote on his Facebook page.

U.S. officials claim they are anxious that an impending assault by Syria forces on the terrorists in Idlib could involve the use of chemical weapons, an issue that Damascus has dismissed as false lies by Washington.

The US Defense Department told Sputnik Thursday that it was aware of reports of a huge military exercise Russian Federation planned to stage in the Mediterranean Sea this week, and hoped Moscow would follow the rules of safe conduct.

"The U.S. sees this (looming Russian-backed Syrian assault) as an escalation of an already risky conflict", Pompeo tweeted.

Idlib is adjacent to Latakia province, the coastal heartland of Assad's Alawite minority and home to the Russian military airport of Hmeimim. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group only is estimated to have almost 60,000 militants in the city.

Piqué, denunciado por conducir sin puntos en el carnet
Según ha informado esta emisora, los agentes han parado a Piqué en una calle del Eixample poco antes de las tres de la tarde. Han comprobado que el futbolista circulaba sin puntos y que le habían sido retirados por otras infracciones .

HTS has controlled much of Idlib since 2015, acting as de facto governmental authority, facilitating trade across the long border with Turkey and organising aid deliveries.

Assad's forces have already begun massing in the areas of Idlib already under its control and on its southern and eastern flanks.

That change came days after Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the HTS leader, denounced any talk of reconciliation with the Syrian government in a video message, according to the SITE group, which monitors jihadi websites. But the strongest alliance of fighters is led by an al-Qaida-linked group that controls most of the area that is also home to some 3 million people.

A war-of-words already is being waged between the US and Russian Federation, with the former accusing the latter of violating an understanding to prevent the Syrian regime from advancing on Idlib.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Iran to meet with his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani, state-run TRT Haber television said.

Abdurrahman said two other bridges remain in the area and could be used by government forces to move in on the rebel stronghold.

United Nations officials say fighting could displace upward of 800,000 civilians from Idlib, yet there is no arrangement to allow safe passage to those who want to escape the fighting.

He said that even if Assad's forces retake Idlib, that won't solve the problems that unleashed the war seven years ago.

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