Germany’s Merkel favours Idlib safe zone - Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told German conservative lawmakers on Tuesday that she favoured the creation of safe zones in Idlib, northwest Syria, where Turkish forces and their rebel allies are facing off against the Syrian government backed by Russia, two politicians who were at the meeting told Reuters.

The conflict in Idlib has escalated for months throughout a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive that has driven rebels back and sent nearly a million civilians away from the fighting and toward the Turkish border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his country would not bear the cost of a new migration crisis alone, and last week Turkey offered migrants free passage to its border with Europe after the Idlib conflict claimed at least 36 Turkish soldiers’ lives.

Merkel criticised Russian President Putin for not taking part in a four-way meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and Erdoğan that was scheduled for March 5. Putin spurned the meeting while his Syrian allies held the advantage in Idlib last month; now he will meet Erdoğan alone in Moscow on Thursday after Turkey upped the ante following the loss of its soldiers, decimating the Syrian army’s ranks with drone strikes.

The German chancellor discussed the situation in Idlib in a telephone conversation with Putin on Tuesday, the Russian news agency RIA reported.