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EU ministers urge end to fighting in Syria's Idlib

By AFP - Feb 26,2020 - Last updated at Feb 26,2020

A Syrian boy sits in front of a tombstone at a cemetery where displaced families took refuge in its prayer hall, in the town of Sarmada in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, on February 23 (AFP photo)

PARIS — Fourteen EU ministers called Wednesday for a ceasefire in Syria's Idlib, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced by ongoing violence in the northern province. 

The violence in Syria's last rebel-held enclave has caused a humanitarian crisis.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, his German counterpart Heiko Maas and the foreign ministers of 12 other EU countries warned that what Moscow has presented as a fight against terrorism did not justify "massive violations of international humanitarian law".

In an open letter published in French daily Le Monde, the ministers urged an "immediate" end to hostilities to achieve a de-escalation.

Russia and Turkey in 2018 agreed to create a demilitarised zone in Idlib but the accord has fallen apart due to ongoing violence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed he would not take the "smallest step back" in the stand-off with Damascus and Russia.

A day earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected calls for a halt to the Russian-backed incentive, saying it would be tantamount to "capitulating before terrorists".

The 14 ministers said they were "perfectly lucid about the presence of radical groups in Idlib" but said this did not justify "incessant airstrikes and the dropping of barrel bombs".

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for summit with Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek an end to the crisis.

Erdogan on Saturday announced a four-way summit on March 5 but later said there was "no full agreement" on the meeting.


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