Germany has called on Russia on Thursday to use its influence on the Syrian regime to stop its offensive in northwestern Syria.
“These attacks must be stopped,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an exclusive interview with the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.
“We are now witnessing another dramatic escalation of the situation in Idlib and it is reaching the level of a humanitarian catastrophe,” he warned.
Almost 1.5 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks in recent months, sparking fears of a new refugee influx towards Europe.
Germany’s top diplomat, during his recent conversations with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, said that he conveyed his government’s concerns and expectations.
“Assad doesn’t care about the death of vulnerable people in a cruel way. Russia must use its influence on the regime,” he stressed.
Maas made the remarks ahead of the Munich Security Conference, the world’s biggest security conference bringing together political and military leaders from all over the world, on Feb. 14-16 in Munich.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are among the top officials expected to attend the conference.
Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
Syrian regime attacks in recent weeks on Turkish troops stationed in Idlib has further sparked tensions in the region.
On Monday, five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, following a similar attack last week martyring seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.
The Turkish troops are in Idlib — nominally a cease-fire zone, under a deal between Turkey and Russia — as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.
Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and killing some 200 Assad regime troops.