Turkish and Russian defense ministers discuss Idlib

Turkish and Russian defense ministers discuss Idlib

Turkish and Russian defense ministers discuss Idlib

Defense ministers of Turkey and Russia continue discussions on coordination in the latest developments in opposition-held Idlib and measures to ease tension in the northwestern Syrian province.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on May 20, following the first meeting of the Turkish-Russian joint working group on the Idlib issue held in Ankara last week.

They discussed “regional security issues, especially the latest developments in Syria’s Idlib province and measures to be taken to reduce the tension in the area, within the scope of the Sochi agreement,” the Defense Ministry stated on its Twitter account.

Akar and Shoigu have intensified their diplomatic engagement since last week after a phone conversation between the presidents of the two countries on May 13 during which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed Turkey’s concerns on increasing the Russian-backed Syrian regime’s assault in Idlib.

Turkey is worried about a possible refugee influx to its border in the north of Syria. Ankara also warns Russia that its two observation points in southern Idlib, observation points named as nine and ten, are facing security risks due to regime attacks in the nearby region.

In early May, two Turkish soldiers were wounded by Syrian regime forces shelling on a Turkish observation point in the opposition-held de-escalation zone in Idlib. Turkish Armed Forces set up 12 observation points in May 2018 following the ninth round of Astana Peace Talks.

Last September, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be strictly prohibited. The regime, however, has consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone.

At least 167 civilians have lost their lives in Idlib since April 25, with more than 415 civilians injured, according to civil defense sources. Some 1.5 million people currently reside in Idlib. Half of them are displaced from other parts of the civil war-torn country.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.