Ankara urges Moscow to halt regime attacks in Syria
Turkey urged Russia on Feb. 6 to press for an end to the Syrian offensive in the last rebel bastion of Idlib after a deadly flare-up this week.
“We expect Russia to stop the regime as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.
Turkey and Russia have worked to find political solutions in the northwestern province of Idlib.
A renewed offensive by Syrian forces has undermined existing peace agreements and led to deadly clashes.
Çavuşoğlu said Turkey and Russia were closely coordinating after the clashes, adding that a delegation from Russia was due to visit Turkey for further talks.
“Our target on the ground in Idlib is not Russia,” he said.
“We conveyed our determination to our Russian counterparts,” he said, adding Ankara was determined to stem the “humanitarian drama” in Idlib.
“Who carried out the attack there? It is the regime. Who attacked our soldiers? It’s the regime ... Who harassed our observation posts? It is the regime,” he said, referring to a Feb. 3 attack, that left seven Turkish soldiers killed and a civilian dead. Turkey retaliated the attack, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers in mortar and howitzer fires.
The foreign minister said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin could meet “if needed.”
In the recent phone conversation, Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, addressed all the issues extensively and reiterated cooperation, Çavuşoğlu said.
“Now, we expect a Russian delegation. After the delegation, our President Erdoğan and Russian President Putin will meet if there is a need. Our main aim is to stop conflicts.”
The two countries should continue working together with Russia. If we are to solve problems there, we will solve them together,” added Çavuşoğlu.
Erdoğan urged Syria on Feb. 5 to withdraw its troops from Turkey’s military observation posts in Idlib, warning that Turkey would take matters into its own hands if this was not done by the end of February.
“Our sole expectation from Russia in Syria is that it understands Turkey’s sensitivities,” he said.
Under a 2018 deal with Moscow, Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib aimed at preventing a regime offensive.
The outposts at Morek and Surman are now encircled by regime forces, and Turkish troops at another post in Saraqeb shelled Syrian forces on Wednesday to prevent it also being surrounded, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey has yet to comment on clashes at Saraqeb, but Çavuşoğlu said it would not allow “aggression” by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“Of course, there is a limit to our patience. After we had eight martyrs, we retaliated... If the regime keeps on its aggression, we will not stop there,” he said.
Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes in Syria killed four civilians in Idlib, a Syrian civil defense group announced on Feb. 5.
The Syrian opposition aircraft observatory said areas near Idlib’s center and villages near the town of Saraqib were targeted.