BERLIN (AA) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday renewed her call for an immediate cease-fire in the embattled province of Idlib, Syria and a political solution to the crisis.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels after a meeting with EU leaders, Merkel said she was gravely concerned over the situation in northwestern Syria, and together with French President Emmanuel Macron, held a phone call on Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to bring an end to the fighting there.
“We have insisted that there must be a political solution, and before that, a cease-fire,” Merkel stressed, adding that hundreds of thousands of civilians are now in an extremely difficult situation, amid continued attacks by the Syrian regime forces.
She welcomed today’s telephone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin, and their agreement to continue consultations on Idlib to de-escalate tensions and ensure a cease-fire.
“I can only hope that the situation will improve very quickly,” she said, adding that both Germany and France stand ready to help efforts for a cease-fire and a political solution to the crisis.
Merkel also underlined that together with Macron, they would like to continue four-party talks with Erdogan and Putin on Syria, in the so-called Istanbul format.
Citing Thursday's joint declaration by EU leaders on the situation in Idlib, she stressed that all the member states are united on this issue.
The declaration sharply criticized the Assad regime and its backers for a recent military offensive and called on all actors to cease hostilities immediately.
- Attacks drive wave of refugees
Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.
The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
Some 1 million Idlib refugees have moved towards the Turkish border in recent months, fleeing attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, and causing a desperate humanitarian situation.
Turkey has called for an immediate halt to the attacks on Idlib, and for the cease-fire to be followed, warning that if the attacks do not stop Turkey will take action.