The Syrian regime is reported to be planning a full-scale military operation in the northwestern province of Idlib. It's the last remaining opposition and rebel stronghold in northern Syria and home to millions of displaced people.
An attack on Syria's Idlib, an opposition and rebel-held enclave, would be a disaster, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, ahead of a summit on Friday with his Russian and Iranian counterparts.
Russia and Iran are backing Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad in the war, now in its eighth year. Turkey is backing some opposition groups.
"The situation in Idlib now is important for us. Because a very cruel process is going on in Idlib right now. There [Idlib] are 3.5 million people there. God forbid, if this disaster befalls them, it will be a massacre," Erdogan said.
"These people will first seek refuge in Turkey. While we have been talking about their returning [to Syria] from Turkey, such a risk is on the agenda now," Erdogan added.
The Turkish president also said he is expecting a positive outcome from Friday's summit in Tehran where he will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.
"Mevlut Cavusoglu and Defence Minister [Hulusi Akar] will meet their counterparts. We do care about these meetings. Moreover, the Tehran Summit is of great importance to us,” Erdogan said
Russia resumed air strikes on Tuesday against opposition-and-rebel-held Idlib. This followed weeks of shelling by Russian and Syrian regime forces in an apparent prelude to a full-scale offensive against the last major enclave holding out against the regime.
Speaking to reporters on the plane back from an official visit to Kyrgyzstan, Erdogan said the road map for the northern Syrian city of Manbij agreed between Ankara and Washington in June was not proceeding as planned.
Under the road map for Manbij agreed by the two NATO allies, Turkish and US forces are now carrying out joint patrols there to clear the area of YPG militants.
"We are not at an ideal point [about Manbij]. Unfortunately, the agreement made is not going forward in the same direction as the initial discussions," Erdogan was quoted as saying.
In a meeting on Tuesday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and the US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, discussed developments in Syria.