Russia accuses Syrian rebels of preparing Idlib chemical attack

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Turkey is confronted with a huge problem that is nearly impossible to settle in a fully satisfactory way, Haldun Solmazturk, a former army general, told Xinhua. Assad's army, with Russian air support, has been mustering troops and tanks around Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian opposition groups now dominated by jihadists.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that the jihadist group is "preparing another provocation of the "use of chemical weapons" by Syrian government forces against the peaceful population of the Idlib province". No agreement was reached on the conditions under which that could happen, they said.

According to some estimates, foreign fighters may make up as much as around half the rebels in Idlib.

The United States is expected to impose a new round of sanctions on Russian Federation on August 27 that would curb Russia's access to sensitive US national security-controlled goods.

"We regard such a distorted statement of the contents of conversation of heads of foreign policy departments of Russian Federation and the United States as Washington's attempt to use bilateral dialogue on the subject of the Syrian conflict to advance its own political agenda as in Syria and, more broadly, in the framework of the OPCW", - said Zakharov.

"Our relations with Turkey are becoming deeper and more meaningful, becoming deeper in the field of economic cooperation, in addressing a number of issues related to regional issues", Putin said during his meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Hakan Fidan, chief of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

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The Turkish foreign minister said Ankara would still rely on talks with Russian Federation and Iran, known as the Astana peace process, widely seen as an attempt to circumvent largely fruitless United Nations talks on Syria.

The UN peace envoy for Syria will host Iran, Russia and Turkey for talks on drafting a new Syrian constitution on September 11-12, a United Nations spokeswoman said on Friday.

In remarks apparently targeting the United States and Turkey on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any foreign troops in Syria without Damascus' invitation must leave.

Cavusoglu noted that Turkey considers "it is very important that those radical groups and terrorists are rendered ineffective", indicating that it is important for Turkey because they are on the other side of its border. As talk of a new government offensive swirled earlier this week, the leader of Syria's al-Qaida affiliate that is based in the province vowed to fight on there. He also warned that those who surrender would be seen as traitors.

Stressing that more than 3 million civilians live in Idlib, Cavusoglu said: "A military solution there would be a disaster".

Cavusoglu also said the political process in Syria should be started as soon as possible, stating that a list of member-candidates for a constitutional committee was submitted. "That's why we must work together on how to resolve (the issue) rather than attack Idlib". Idlib is one of the four areas under rebel control which were designated as de-escalation zones a year ago. It is trying to avert an attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Moscow. This is the last province in the country held by multiple anti-government terroist groups, including the al-Nusra Front terror group. It has 12 military observation and surveillance posts all over Idlib.

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