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.

The foreign ministry said it stressed the need to establish dialogue between the Syrian government and the “constructive” opposition.

The talks with Hariri, who represents the official Syrian opposition, came as the Russian-backed Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad have been preparing an offensive on northwestern Idlib province, the last major rebel enclave.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted on clearing the region of rebels, describing them on Wednesday as “a festering abscess.”

Syrian forces are preparing a phased offensive, a source close to Damascus said, that would focus on southern and westerns parts of the province but not Idlib city itself.

“The final touches for the first stage will be completed in the coming hours,” the official added, without saying when it would start.

There were still negotiations over the offensive going on between Russia and Turkey, as well as with Iran which also supports Damascus in the war, the official said.

Turkey, which borders Idlib and has a small military presence there, has warned against such an attack.