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Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, discussed options for a peace settlement in Syria with opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

With rebels defeated in most of Syria, such an offensive could prove to be the last big battle of the civil war.

Russian Federation has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces.

The presence of the Russian navy in the Mediterranean Sea and reports of the regime poised for a "phased offensive" in Idlib raised concerns about the safety of Syrians already displaced by war and a renewed displacement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday his country was engaged in talks with Iran and Russian Federation to avoid a humanitarian calamity in Idlib.

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On Aug. 21, the United States, France and Britain said in a joint statement that "we remain resolved to act if the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime uses chemical weapons again". The country has been consumed by war since demonstrations broke out against Assad in 2011.

"What we need to do now is to wipe out those terrorist groups which persist, particularly within [Idlib]", said Mr. Lavrov, accusing rebel groups within Idlib of targeting Russian bases with military drone attacks.

"The regime's past brutality in Aleppo, Ghouta, and southwest Syria, to include indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas, indicate that they can not be trusted to protect civilians in any military offensive", the statement said.

The top Syrian diplomat made the remarks in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday, following a meeting within the framework of Syrian-Russian intergovernmental commissions.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the United States, warned Washington on Thursday against what he called "groundless and illegal aggression against Syria".

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The office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe, and called for restraint.

"But that area most likely is under government control", he said.

TASS cited the defence ministry as saying that 25 warships and submarines and 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, would take part, and that the drills would involve anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises.

Amid worldwide tensions, Russian Federation has launched a massive naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, which involves 25 ships and 30 aircraft, including Tu-160 strategic bombers.

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