Turkey pleads for Idlib accord as displaced people mass at border
[AsiaTimes] Turkey is seeking to avoid a repeat of 2014, when it was forced to allow in a flood of desperate Syrians who massed at its border.

Fresh Russian bombardments in northwestern Syria have sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in recent days, prompting a Turkish outcry over an anticipated assault and an inevitable new wave of refugees on its border.

UN regional coordinator for Syria Panos Moumtzis on Tuesday voiced concern over an uptick in air strikes and shelling that has sent more than 30,000 people fleeing, mainly to locations within the contested province of Idlib. He said strikes on multiple healthcare facilities have compounded the crisis.

“Idlib is the last exit before the toll,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, warning an assault for the neighboring province would have disastrous consequences.

He called instead for an “international counterterrorism operation” in cooperation with Turkish-backed opposition factions to weed out groups like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham that have been blacklisted by the international community.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff over the weekend raised the prospect of American counterterrorism operations in Idlib, though with the caveat he was “not talking about cooperating, but about using US capabilities to spot the terrorists … and take them out.”

Erdogan did not directly warn of a new wave of refugees to Europe in his op-ed, but the prospect is a common theme in the state-dominated press. In recent days, Turkey’s Daily Sabah published an infographic mapping “possible routes out of Idlib to Europe.”

Turkish columnist and Middle East expert Cengiz Candar suggests in Al-Monitor that Erdogan may be out of options to prevent the unavoidable.

“Perhaps Putin has come to the conclusion that the gap between Turkey and the West has reached an unbridgeable distance, and that he can disregard Ankara’s wishes regarding Idlib because he sees that Turkey has nowhere to go in addition to being ever-more dependent on Russia and Iran for energy,” he said.

Posted by: 3dc 2018-09-12