Russian Federation to Hold Substantial Naval Exercise Off Syrian Coast

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The clock is ticking as allied Russian Federation builds its forces offshore in a warning to the United States not to gamble on any last-ditch move to stave off what Moscow called the impending "liquidation" of the rebel-held province.

Syrian government forces and Syrian Arab Red Crescent oversee the evacuation by buses of opposition fighters and their families from the southern province of Daraa, Syria, to Idlib in July.

Moallem said the government tried to negotiate with a so-called reconciliation committee in the area, but al-Qaeda-linked militants arrested most of the committee members.

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.

The US Department of State said the best way to protect the civilians in Idlib was for Russian Federation to compel the Assad regime to avoid a military offensive.

"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.

On August 30, Russian Foreign Minister said during talks with Walid Muallem, Syrian Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Foreign and Expatriates Minister in Moscowб that Moscow warning the West not to play with fire in Syria. It is one of the areas that Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to "de-escalate" past year at a series of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

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But with a regime offensive looming, the Turkish military has been reinforcing its 12 monitoring posts.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "terrorists" must be wiped out in Idlib, accusing them of using civilians as human shields.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies that Moscow is willing to discuss "the details, the general idea and what practical solutions there are".

In the meantime, the government is amassing its forces around the province, and Russia has positioned at least 10 warships and two submarines off the coast, according to Russian media reports.

Now they have nowhere left to turn, after other opposition pockets have collapsed, and Turkey has largely sealed its borders to new refugees.

He said a full-scale military operation in Idlib could lead to a "humanitarian catastrophe".

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura expressed fears of a "perfect storm" that could have a devastating impact on almost 3 million people - almost half of whom arrived from elsewhere in Syria - in the region largely controlled by al-Qaeda-linked fighters. Numerous displaced people fled earlier offensives to escape the fighting or avoid coming back under Assad's rule - including those bussed to Idlib under "evacuation" deals when rebels surrendered other enclaves.

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