Fourteen foreign ministers from EU member states on Wednesday (February 26th) asked the Syrian government, its Russian allies, and Turkey to end their offensive in the province of Idleb. They demand a return to the terms of the 2018 ceasefire agreement, in a forum published by Le Monde.

The 14 ministers, including the French Jean-Yves Le Drian and the German Heiko Maas, also warned that the fight against "terrorism" invoked by Moscow, which supports the military offensive of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the province could not justify "the massive violations of international humanitarian law".

"We call on the Syrian regime and its supporters, notably Russian, to the immediate cessation of hostilities"

- Jean-Yves Le Drian (@JY_LeDrian) February 26, 2020

"We call on Russia to continue negotiations with Turkey, in order to achieve a de-escalation in Idleb and to contribute to a political solution," write the signatories.

Growing tensions between Turkey and Russia

In addition to a serious humanitarian crisis, the advance of Syrian forces in Idleb has provoked a crisis with Turkey, which supports rebel groups, and friction between Ankara and Moscow. The two countries signed an agreement in 2018 in Sochi, Russia to end the fighting and erect Turkish observation posts in the Idleb region, but this arrangement has been shattered in recent weeks and the two parties reject responsibility for its implosion.

>> Read - Syria: the Idleb crisis, a test for the Russian-Turkish "honeymoon"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hammered on Wednesday that his country would not "take a single step back" in Idleb and reiterated its ultimatum to the forces of the Syrian regime to withdraw from certain positions by the end of February.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying it would be a "surrender to the terrorists".

"We are perfectly lucid about the presence of radical groups in Idleb. We will never take the problem of terrorism lightly: we fight it with determination," noted the signatories of the tribune.

"But the fight against terrorism cannot, should not, justify the massive violations of international humanitarian law," they said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have requested the organization of a summit on Syria with their Turkish counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian Vladimir Putin.

The signatories of the tribune are the heads of diplomacy of the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, France, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, from Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia.

With AFP

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