The anxious wait in Idlib, the last bastion of those who flee the Assad regime in Syria, has unfortunately been going on for weeks.
Even though Turkey's call for a cease-fire during the Tehran summit was clearly heard the world over and the U.N. pointed to the possible human casualties in the case of an operation – which was reiterated during the same summit and that the only way out was political negotiations – Assad's forces and Russian troops continue to store ammunition around Idlib. Airstrikes in southern and western Idlib also continue.
During the U.N. Security Council meeting convened at Russia's request, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Turkey's envoy to the U.N., once again called for a stop on military operations and asked for a cease-fire to be declared. Speaking on behalf of Turkey, he said, "Our call for a cease-fire covers all military operations and Turkey will maintain its efforts in this direction."
However, the Russian-backed regime insistently does not care about civilians. Even though an all-out operation, instead of a targeted one, against terrorist groups in Idlib will lead to serious numbers of civilian deaths, a step back in this direction is not on the horizon yet.
Syrian General Conference Founding Committee Chairman Bassam Sahyouni stated that 1.5 million registered civilians live in Idlib's city center and this figure rises to 3.5 million around the city, while 600,000 others are yet to be registered. According to Sahyouni, as opposed to what is claimed, the administration of the city is not controlled by terrorist groups in Idlib, but by the Idlib Liberation Government.In short, millions of civilians are desperately waiting for a decision to be made leaving them between life and death. Here, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands out as the voice of conscience. In his Wall Street Journal article, Erdoğan said, "Idlib is the last exit before the toll," which has great repercussions in the West and seems promising for Idlib's people.
Despite ongoing calls and efforts by Turkey and the international community, migration from the city continues. While the number of those who left Idlib last week exceeded 30,000, the figures are increasing as attacks by Russia and the regime continue. Migrants are coming to the Turkish border – which means a new humanitarian problem. Turkey, which currently hosts 3.5 million Syrians, says that it cannot afford a large migration wave.
While Turkey clearly suggested to Russia "to stop the attacks and eliminate terrorist groups together," the target is not only terrorist groups. The Assad regime is aware that reinstating domination over Syria will only be possible with domination over Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the opposition.
For Assad, controlling Idlib means winning or losing the war. It is hardly realistic to expect that a regime, which has killed more than 1 million civilians in seven years, to feel any concern over its actions now.
Turkey says it supports the territorial integrity of Syria, suggesting that a precise and target-oriented operation is needed in order to prevent civilian deaths and that it is ready to provide every kind of support to this end.
Everything happening in Idlib is a micro example of the last seven years. In order to avoid remembering the city as a great disaster, Russia must withdraw its support for the regime's total operation.