Ceasefire talks fail as airstrikes target last rebel-held region in Syria

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The war in Syria could be about to enter its final stage

Earlier in the week, Russian jets were reported to have carried out about 30 strikes on rebel-held areas in western Idlib, the mountains of Latakia province, and the Sahl al-Ghab plain. Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria since the start of the war in 2011.

Without a political solution in Syria, "we will see this war reach new levels of horrors", the United Nations special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said.

A trilateral meeting of Russia, Iran and Turkey was held in Tehran which focused on the Syrian province of Idlib, the last stronghold of active opposition to the government of President Bashar Assad.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey attend a news conference in Tehran, Sept. 7, 2018. Idlib is the last opportunity for the U.S. to increase leverage in Syria, he said, and if the province falls before the Geneva talks, Trump administration efforts to re-engage with peace talks will likely fail.

Turkey on Wednesday said Russia's air assault on Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib was "wrong" and that Ankara would try to stop further attacks.

On Saturday the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring body, and the opposition-affiliated Idlib Media Centre said government helicopters had dropped 19 barrel bombs on targets in Idlib and Hama, and Russian warplanes had staged 68 strikes.

She also said the United States would not consider reconstruction aid for Syria until it sees "concrete results from a genuine political process that ends the war and offers freedom to the Syrian people".

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Airstrikes hammered rebel positions in Idlib as the summit got underway.

An official in the town of Morek, which serves as a crossing between Hama and Idlib, appealed for Turkey to intervene as it has troops and 12 observations points circling Idlib.

In a separate development, clashes erupted between Syrian troops and Kurdish security forces known as Asayesh in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northern Hasakah province.

"The legitimate Syrian government has a right and must eventually take under control of its entire national territory", Putin declared. This prompted the clashes, which lasted no more than 20 minutes, Sheikmos said.

Further heightening the risk of unsafe escalation, the USA carried out a military exercise in southeastern Syria on Friday that, according to the military, included a "live-fire rehearsal" and an "aerial assault". But in recent days, the Damascus government announced that it will be holding local administration elections, including in Kurdish-ruled areas, undermining the negotiations with the Kurds and their proposal for self-rule.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned the council that there were "all the ingredients for a flawless storm" in Idlib and the United Nations was ready to work with all parties on evacuation routes if they were required.

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