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Erdogan: Cease-fire Necessary in Syrian Province

The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that a cease-fire was urgently needed in Syria’s Idlib Province, where the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has gone on the offensive against entrenched rebels. The statement indicates that Erdogan is worried about an influx of yet more refugees into Turkey, which currently hosts an estimated 3.5 million Syrians displaced by more than eight years of civil war. Russia, which backs Assad, seems to feel the anti-rebel offensive is necessary, according to a statement put out by Putin’s office. Last September, Moscow and Ankara mediated a cease-fire in Idlib, but their joint interests seem to have diverged in recent months with the resurgence of Assad’s control over much of the country, and signs that the mostly Islamist rebels holding Idlib Province have been flexing their muscles. In recent months, an estimated 250,000 Syrians have been displaced by the fighting there.