The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in a high stakes summit in Tehran on Friday to discuss the future of Syria as a bloody military operation looms in the last rebel-held area of the war-ravaged nation, each laying out terms and issues on the battlefield most critical to their own concerns.
Turkey’s president appealed for a cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib, saying a government offensive in the northwestern province would be a national security threat to his country and unleash a humanitarian catastrophe.
His call appeared to be at odds with statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin who said the Syrian government “has the right” to regain control over all Syrian territory, including Idlib.
The two leaders, along with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke at a summit meeting in Tehran to discuss the future of Syria as a bloody military operation looms in the last rebel-held area of the war-ravaged nation.
WATCH: The president of Turkey called for a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib on Friday during a meeting with the presidents of Russia and Iran as a bloody military operation looms.
“Idlib isn’t just important for Syria’s future, it is of importance for our national security and for the future of the region,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
“Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe. Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience,” he added, saying “we don’t want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath.
“We must find a reasonable way out for Idlib,” he said.
WATCH: Syria says it will ‘go all the way’ in rebel-held Idlib
Putin reiterated Russia’s stance that Assad’s government should be able to regain control of all of Syria.
“We should think together over all aspects of this complicated issue,” Putin said, speaking of Idlib. “We should solve this issue together and (we should) all realize that the legitimate Syrian government has the right and eventually should be able to regain control of all of its territory.”
Reacting to Erdogan’s proposal for the joint communique to call for a cease-fire in Idlib, Putin said “a cease-fire would be good” but indicated that Moscow does not think it will hold.
He warned militants in Idlib planned “provocations,” possibly including chemical weapons. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons in the long conflict.
WATCH: U.N. fears chemical weapons in Syria battle with ‘10,000 terrorists’
For his part, Rouhani demanded an immediate withdrawal by American forces in the country. The U.S. has some 2,000 troops in Syria. He added that “we have to force the United States to leave,” without elaborating.
“The fires of war and bloodshed in Syria are reaching their end,” Rouhani said, while adding that terrorism must “be uprooted in Syria, particularly in Idlib.”
Each of the three nations has its own interests in the years long war in Syria.
“The least the summit can do is to prevent this military war,” he said.Early on Friday, a series of airstrikes struck villages in southwest Idlib, targeting insurgent posts and killing a fighter, said Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Abdurrahman said suspected Russian warplanes carried out the attack.Turkey also doesn’t want to see another Kurdish-controlled area rise along its border, as it already faces in northern Iraq.___Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.