Defying dangers, Idlib residents protest Syria's Assad

Iranian Foreign Minister's Special Assistant for Political Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari Russian President's Special Representative for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan

UN chief pushes for protection of civilians in Syria's Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in another bid to avert a looming Syrian government assault on the rebel-held province of Idlib bordering Turkey that has sparked worldwide concern.

President Tayyip Erdogan will hold talks in Russia on Monday with Vladimir Putin to discuss the Syrian crisis, 10 days after similar talks in Tehran, Turkish and Russian officials said.

The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation met in Tehran last week but did not agree a ceasefire that would prevent an expected offensive.

An influx of displaced people has roughly doubled the Idlib region's population to around 2.9 million people in recent years.

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Still, a meeting of presidential aides from Russia, Germany, Turkey and France devoted to Syria will take place in Istanbul on Friday.

"The rebels are our hope; Turks are our brothers; the terrorists are Bashar, Hezbollah and Russian Federation", read a banner carried by residents in the village of Kneiset Bani Omar, referring to Turkey which backs the opposition, and Lebanon's Hezbollah and Russian Federation that have joined the war along with Assad's forces. However, we are against hurting women, children and civilians at the pretext of the war on terror. "We will continue our efforts on global platforms as well", he said.

For weeks, government troops backed by Russian Federation and Iran have massed around Idlib, and air strikes and bombings have intensified in recent days.

Over the past few years, thousands of rebels have been evacuated from different parts of Syria to Idlib under agreements with the government.

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United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned Syria and its backers against a full-scale offensive in Idlib, saying it "must not be transformed into a bloodbath".

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday a Turkish convoy entered from Kfar Lusin crossing in northern Idlib, heading to some of the 12 Turkish observations points that ring Idlib.

Turkey has appealed for a cease-fire in Idlib, which straddles its borders and is home to more than 3 million people. "The operation is not canceled, but we have time".

In the provincial capital, Idlib city, and in towns including Kafranbel, Dana, Azaz, Maaret al-Numan and al-Bab, demonstrators filled the streets after noon prayers and chanted against Assad, raising the tri-color green, white and black flag that has become the banner of Syria's 2011 uprising, activists said.

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Another proposal is to open humanitarian corridors through which civilians could leave to government-controlled areas, although that suggestion has yet to gain any traction.

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