Turkish defense minister, intelligence chief in Russia to discuss Syria’s Idlib
Turkey’s defense minister and the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have paid a snap visit to Moscow to discuss recent developments in Syria, amid concerns over the Syrian regime’s ongoing military operation in the Idlib province, which Turkey says could produce catastrophic consequences for both civilians and Turkey’s border security.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and MİT head Hakan Fidan held talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Aug. 17. A statement issued by the Russian Defense Ministry said the two ministers conveyed views on regional security matters, particularly in Syria.
Akar and Shoygu paid special attention to the return of Syrian refugees to their country for a fast resolution to the humanitarian problems in the war-torn country, the statement added.
The two ministers also discussed ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense.
Akar’s visit to Moscow comes only a few days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the Turkish capital where he had extensive talks with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Syria.
The Turkish foreign minister had made clear that Turkey, Russia and Iran would jointly work for the resolution of the problem in Idlib, opposing a unilateral large-scale operation by the Syrian army which wants to eliminate all armed opposition groups from the last rebel-held enclave.
Idlib is a de-escalation zone where Turkey has 12 observation spots. Turkey says a military operation would bring about catastrophe for civilians if they are “not separated from terrorists.” But the Russian foreign minister said they acknowledged Damascus’ right to “eliminate terrorists” on its own soils and Moscow’s right to support the Syrian army’s operation.
There are more than 2.5 million people living in the enclave, which has been under the control of jihadist groups that were transferred from Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Homs in the recent years. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is believed to be the most powerful jihadist group in the region with thousands of heavily armed militants.
The Syrian army began deploying soldiers outside Idlib, with reports that the offensive would begin in September.
Idlib, the largest and only rebel stronghold left in the country, is controlled by an array of insurgent groups, mostly Sunni Muslim jihadist groups, seeking to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. The imminent operation comes after the Assad regime drew international outrage after offensives in other rebel-held areas, where he was accused of using chemical weapons and committing massacres against civilians.
The Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents will meet in a summit to be held in Tehran in the first week of September to discuss all recent developments and plans to accelerate efforts for a political settlement in Syria.