Turkey vows to respond if Syria’s attacks on its bases continue
“We think that these attacks are intentional. We will do whatever necessary if they continue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a joint press conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian on June 13 in the Turkish capital.
The Turkish Defense Ministry announced early June 13 that Syrian regime forces carried out a deliberate attack on a Turkish observation post in the Idlib province, involving 35 mortar shells. Three Turkish soldiers were slightly injured as a result of the attack.
“Some 35 mortars were fired from As Shariah region, controlled by the Syrian forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone. They targeted our observation point number 10, located on Mount Zawiya,” the Defense Ministry’s statement said.
Turkey has 12 observation posts in the region for monitoring an already broken ceasefire between the regime forces and the opposition groups in line with a deal with Russia to avoid a massive humanitarian tragedy.
The attack came hours after Russian news agencies suggested that Russia and Turkey had brokered a complete ceasefire in the province by midnight on June 12, citing Russian military sources. The Russian military said the ceasefire applied to the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone and had led to a significant reduction in violence on June 12, Russian news agencies reported.
However, intensive shelling continued to target towns and cities in the southern Idlib countryside and northern Hama countryside after midnight, when the ceasefire was supposed to take effect, civil defense told Reuters.
No full truce as Russia announced
Despite Russian statements, Çavuşoğlu informed the media that “there was no full ceasefire” in the province and that talks with Russia were still underway. Çavuşoğlu slammed the Syrian government for a recent wave of attacks against civilians, including schools and hospitals, which has already pushed more than 200,000 people to leave their homes.
“As the guarantors of the Astana Process, Russia and Iran should use their influence on the Syrian regime to stop these attacks,” Çavuşoğlu added, referring to the peace process to end the civil war in Syria.
The latest reports, however, show that it’s not only the Syrian army that attacks positions in Idlib. The Russian Ministry of Defense said on June 13 that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib region, the RIA news agency reported. The Russian military said that the Turkish army had asked for its help to protect Turkish troops by striking “terrorists in Idlib.”
France supports Turkey’s Idlib initiative
French Foreign Minister Le Drian said that he and Çavuşoğlu have discussed the Idlib question during talks and expressed his government’s support for Turkey’s efforts to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the region.
“We believe countries that have an influence over the Syrian regime should take necessary steps to de-escalate tension in the enclave,” he said.