Turkey will not tolerate Syrian regime attacks: Turkish FM
Turkish military vehicles drive in a convoy headed for the south of Idlib province as they pass by the town of Atareb in the western countryside of Aleppo.
Turkey responded in kind to a regime attack against a Turkish army convoy in Syria’s Idlib and would not tolerate any future Syrian attack on its troops, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Feb. 4, accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of “increasing insolence.”
“We strive to end these conflicts [in Syria] with Russia just as we did in Astana and Sochi. We can’t tolerate attacks targeting us, we have given the necessary response in Idlib and will continue to do so,” Çavuşoğlu said at the Asia Anew meeting.
Ankara is trying to keep peace efforts for Syria alive in cooperation with Russia despite Syrian government advances and a deadly clash between Turkish and Syrian forces, he stated. However, the minister also renewed a call on Russia to “pull the reins in” on the Syrian government forces.
Replying to reporters after the meeting, the minister dismissed claims by Russia that it cannot fully control the Syrian government and said the attack came despite a prior notification by Turkey of its troops’ coordinates in Idlib. Russia insisted that Turkey had failed to notify the Russian military about troop movements overnight.
Elaborating on regime attacks, Çavuşoğlu said, “We disapprove the pretext that Russia cannot fully control the Syrian regime.”
On Feb. 3, Turkish artillery targeted Syrian government forces in northern Idlib province, responding to the shelling that killed seven Turkish soldiers and a Turkish civilian.
The exchange of fire in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, increased tensions between the two neighboring countries and threatened to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey, which have sought to coordinate their actions in Syria.
“The Astana and Sochi peace processes have not been completely destroyed but have lately started to suffer and lose importance,” he said, referring to Russian-Turkish peace initiatives that have also involved Iran.
Turkish officials were in constant contact with Russian counterparts in order “to keep the Astana and Sochi processes alive, to strengthen them, and to arrive at a political solution.”
The minister recalled that he held a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hours after the incident and added, “The regime’s aggressiveness has to be stopped immediately. That was the message I gave Lavrov yesterday.”
“Military deployments to Idlib are meant to strengthen Turkish observation posts,” he said, noting that they aim to monitor violations.
Turkey wants to contribute to rise of Asia
As part of Turkey’s Asia Anew initiative announced last year, the launch meeting was held on Feb. 4 with the participation of regional countries’ diplomatic representatives.
Recalling that two thirds of global growth in the coming period will be provided by Asian countries, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey also wants to contribute to the rise of the region.
“As a strong NATO member and an important European economy, we do not see any contradiction in strengthening our relations with Asia. Essentially, our Western identity is our presence in Asia. Strong historical and cultural ties with Asia also strengthen our presence in the West.
We are an important part of both Europe and Asia, with our rich culture, human relations and historical heritage that encapsulates the East and the West,” he said, addressing the meeting.