France warns against chemical attacks in last Syria rebel stronghold

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

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

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting would take place in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of various jihadist groups that once sought to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, with support from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers.

The U.N. warned last week that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".

A senior Syrian rebel said Turkey had sent dozens of armored vehicles and tanks, as well as hundreds of special forces personnel to Idlib, a move he said showed Idlib would not share the fate of the other rebel regions.

Turkey has appealed for a cease-fire in Idlib, which straddles its borders and is home to more than 3 million people. President Tayyip Erdogan has warned of a humanitarian disaster and security risks for Turkey.

Appearing alongside Lavrov, Foreign Minister Maas said: "We do not want to see thousands of deaths among civilians".

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. But the Turkish military did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Rebels also said some pro-Assad forces had left frontlines in northwest Syria in recent days.

More than 124,000 pro-government fighters have died, around half of them regime troops and the rest an assortment of Syrian and foreign militiamen loyal to Assad.

It says it can not take more refugees, and Turkish aid and security officials say that in the event of conflict in Idlib they would seek to shelter displaced people inside Syria rather than hosting them on Turkish soil.

A wall along the border between Turkey and Syria is pictured at the Syrian town of Atimah, Idlib province, in this picture taken from Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey October 10, 2017.

"We will keep the refugees in Syria for the safety of both Turkey and European countries".

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Chief Paulo Pinheiro made the suggestion yesterday, echoing UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura's comments last week.

During the first 12 days of September, "available information indicates that a sharp increase in hostilities and fears of further escalation has led to the displacement of over 38,500 people", the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) said.

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a refugee influx across Turkey's borders would have global repercussions. "We have seen it in use before, and we strongly advise that it does not happen in this enclosed area, where the population has, I think, nearly doubled by the influx of evacuees and IDPs from other parts of the country".