Turkish FM discusses Syria with U.S. counterpart on phone


A picture taken on Tuesday shows smoke blowing from buildings reportedly hit by Russian air strikes in the rebel-hold town of Muhambal, about 30 kilometres southwest of the city of Idlib.

Turkey, which backs some of the rebels, has held several rounds of talks with Russian Federation aimed at averting an assault on Idlib, as well as with Washington.

Two Russian Sukhoi-34 planes on Tuesday wiped out a workshop of Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) in Syria's Idlib province where the militants were making attack drones and kept explosives in store.

Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, on Tuesday resumed air strikes on Idlib after a 22-day pause.

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A major assault would be devastating for the almost three million people living in the northwestern province, many of them rebels and civilians who were moved out of other areas as they came back under regime control.

The UN says almost three million people live in Idlib and global concern has risen in recent days over a threatened regime assault to oust rebels and jihadists from the province and surrounding areas.

Air raids across the province killed at least 13 civilians, including six children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said. The United Nations has said displaced people already make up about half of the 3 million people living in rebel-held areas of the northwest.

Damascus and its main backer, Moscow, have vowed to root out the jihadist groups that dominate Idlib province.

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Speaking in a meeting with visiting US Republican Senator Richard Hayden Black in Damascus on Wednesday, Assad said that Washington has long resorted to threats, punitive measures as well as state terrorism, stressing that it will be of great benefit to American statesmen and nation if Washington opts to secure peace than to foment strife and destabilize world countries.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told Reuters that the situation in Idlib is of ongoing concern for Russian Federation.

"If they want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that, but they cannot do it with chemical weapons", she said.

"Such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people", said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, warning the United States and its allies "will respond swiftly and appropriately".

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Rescue workers accused regime forces of killing more than 40 people with "poisonous chlorine gas" in the town of Douma in April.