Russia To Launch Major Naval Drills In Mediterranean As Syria Tensions Rise
31 August, 2018, 19:42 | Author: Donnie King
Syrian opposition fighters blew up bridges Friday linking areas they control to government-held territories in northwestern Syria in anticipation of a military offensive against their last stronghold in the country, activists and a war monitor said.
The exercise comes amid high tension in the region, with Moscowclaiming that the U.S. is deploying additional military assets towards Syria for a likely missile attack against Syrian government forces.
The province's most powerful armed faction is the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jihadist group and neighbouring Turkey is trying to use its influence to avert a major offensive against it. Syria-based rights group had accused Russian airstrikes of killing 1,207 civilians, 380 of them children, in the Aleppo offensive. The military said the drills would focus on anti-air and anti-submarine defence.
"Turkey's relationship with HTS is a complicated one but may best be framed as cooperative animosity", said analyst Elizabeth Teoman, of the Institute for the Study of War.
Cem Devrim Yalalı, who monitors military navigation along the Turkish Straits, says Russian Federation has in recent days sent 11 new vessels into the Mediterranean, almost doubling its naval presence.
National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu discussed Syrian crisis in a phone call, a Defense Ministry source told Anadolu Agency (AA). "Terrorists oppose such separation", Lavrov noted.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met the Turkish strongman for a hour but little filtered out on the nature of the discussions. Any major military operation would send a new wave of refugees to Turkey's border.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on August 29 repeated the UN's warning "about the growing risks of a humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation" in Idlib. Miscalculations could lead to unintended consequences, including the possible use of chemical weapons.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib that includes an estimated 10,000 fighters designated by the UN as terrorists, who he said belonged to the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda.
"It would be a tragic irony frankly if at nearly the end of. a territorial war inside Syria, we would be witnessing the most horrific tragedy to the largest number of civilians", he said.
Idlib has been used as a relief valve for those evacuated from other rebel pockets like Eastern Ghouta following their negotiated surrender to the regime.
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