Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Russian-backed offensive.
The spike in violence came after Russian Federation, fellow regime ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey on Friday failed to immediately agree on a solution to avert an imminent government offensive.
For Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government, retaking Idlib is crucial to completing what they seek: a military victory in Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions.
That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Zarif posted the message in the midst of a trilateral meeting between Iran, Russia and Turkey focused on a looming battle against militants in Idlib province in northwest Syria.
President Donald Trump destroys US credibility while Iran is working toward a political solution in Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Twitter post on Friday. "At the same time, the Assad regime has a history of trading with the terror group ..."
The three presidents, whose countries' are key foreign players in Syria's long civil war, were speaking at a summit in Tehran aimed at charting a way to end the conflict.
"Russian contacts and persons close to the [Syrian] regime tell me that the difficulty of taking Idlib is exaggerated".
The White Helmets, a team of first responders, said it also recorded the four killed in Abdeen.
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Those Syrian ground troops would be backed by Russian aircraft as well as military logistics and elite forces provided by Syria's other major ally, Iran.
Sarah, for those people who might not have been paying attention over the past few days or weeks, who are fighting over Idlib and what's at stake here? He made it clear that the operations against anti-Assad forces in Idlib will continue until they all leave Syria.
"There's lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared", Jeffrey told reporters Thursday.
The intense air raids came a day after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a ceasefire. It insists it is the rebels who are planning a chemical attack.
Any assault on Idlib would be "a unsafe escalation of the conflict in Syria", Haley noted. US officials have said there is no evidence the rebels in Idlib possess chemical weapons.
Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive.
"These commanders, these units, will be held accountable by the global community", said Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the UN.
Meanwhile, Jim Jeffrey, Washington's special envoy to Syria, said the United States was seeing indications Assad's forces were readying chemical weapons.
"My fear is that past will be prologue with the Trump administration", says Frederic C. Hof, diplomat in residence at Bard College in NY and State Department special adviser on Syria during the Obama administration.