Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in the rebel-held region of Idlib in northwest Syria, in a push to regain control of all territory and get rid of the insurgents holding on against government forces in the area bordering Turkey.
Turkey, which fears a flight of the insurgents into its territory, however, said an anticipated government assault on insurgents there could result in a massacre.
Speaking at a summit in Tehran aimed at charting a way to end the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin opposed a truce, and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.
The operation in Idlib is crucial for President Bashar al-Assad’ as the government forces backed by Russia and Iran prepare for what could be the conflict’s last decisive battle.
The United Nations also warned of humanitarian catastrophe from such an assault, even as Russian and Syrian warplanes hit rebel-held parts of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.
Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against west-backed rebels and Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.
The decision made at the meeting of the three presidents could be a turning point in the seven-year-old war that has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee Syria.
Erdogan said a ceasefire agreement would be a “victory” for the summit, even as Putin responded saying that he opposed a ceasefire because Nusra Front and Islamic State militants located there were not part of peace talks.
Syria should regain control of all its territory, he said.