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In any case, it is clear that in the event of any foolishness committed by U.S. and the West against Syria, Damascus and its powerful allies, including Iran and Russian Federation, will not stand idly by.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin can convince Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to start a massive military operation on Idlib until the Astana talks on September 7 in Tehran between him, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, it may give time for all parties involved to maneuver to find a bloodless solution to the problem.

"This hotbed of terrorists (in Idlib) does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday that he had met with President of the Syrian Negotiations Commission Nasr Hariri to discuss the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib.

"The U.S sees this as an escalation of an already risky conflict", Pompeo said on Twitter in a post that also lambasted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for defending Syria's assault plans.

Western powers have warned Syrian troops could use toxic substances against the civilian population as they seek to recapture Idlib.

Over the weekend, Russian Federation began a naval exercise in the Mediterranean, just a few hundred miles from the likely front lines, involving 26 warships and support vessels, as well as 36 planes. Ships from Russia's Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets would take part as would vessels from its Caspian Flotilla.

Earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated the warning, saying that a provocation involving the use of chemical weapons is being planned in the province of Idlib.

The "Marshal Ustinov" missile cruiser would lead the drills.

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Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Vladimir Korolevhas said that the zone of the upcoming maneuvers in the Mediterranean has been declared temporarily unsafe for regular navigation and air traffic.

And that reality, he told AFP, is that "Assad is advancing on the ground, aided by Iran by land and Russian Federation by air", while the United States places its hopes on a UN-backed Geneva peace process that might best be described as "moribund".

CNN reported Friday that US military and intelligence experts have made a list of Syrian chemical weapons facilities that could be hit if US President Donald Trump orders airstrikes.

Lavrov said Russian Federation has transferred the evidence of the ongoing preparations for chemical assault staging to both the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations.

Addressing faithful in St. Peter's Square, Francis said "the winds of war are still blowing and troubling news reaches us about the risks of a possible humanitarian catastrophe" in Syria's Idlib province.

It's not the first time that U.S. without any evidence has accused the Damascus government of planning the use of chemical weapons.

The impending government offensive against what are believed to be about 30,000 rebel fighters is a "perfect storm coming up in front of our eyes", said Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy to Syria.

Minister Walid al-Moualem, speaking after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergie Lavrov in Moscow, also said Syria would not use chemical weapons in any offensive and that it did not have such weapons.


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