Turkish FM slams Russia for killing 600 civilians in Syria

Turkish FM slams Russia for killing 600 civilians in Syria

ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
Turkish FM slams Russia for killing 600 civilians in Syria

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has slammed Russia for killing more than 600 civilians in Syria since the latter started conducting airstrikes inside the country in support of President Bashar al-Assad late September. 

In a written statement issued on Dec. 21, Çavuşoğlu said Russian operations had killed more than 600 civilians, of which 150 were children. 

“The death toll of civilians due to Russian operations is over 600. Some organizations say this number is around 800. We want the world to know that more than 150 of this number are children,” Çavuşoğlu said.

He added that around 200 of the 600 civilians killed up to now had been killed in airstrikes in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib on Dec. 20, which Çavuşoğlu accused Russia of conducting. 

Çavuşoğlu condemned Russia for the Dec. 20 airstrikes in Idlib, where he alleged around 200 civilians were killed and many buildings damaged.

“Russia mainly targets the moderate opposition in Syria since it entered Syria on Sep. 30. Meanwhile, civilian residential areas have been increasingly targeted as well,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said suspected Russian air strikes killed 36 people in Idlib on Dec. 20, adding that most of those killed in the raids were fighters from the Army of Conquest rebel group, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Army of Conquest is a coalition that includes al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front, and Islamist groups such as its ally, Ahrar al-Sham.

Çavuşoğlu also said Russia had launched around 4,000 aerial attacks with over 90 percent of those targeting moderate opponents of al-Assad.

He said those attacks had strengthened the hand of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), adding that Russia was “dreaming” of handing the country over to the Assad regime again.

Çavuşoğlu said Russian operations that followed a U.N. endorsement of a Syria peace plan reached on Dec. 19 had happened before the “ink had dried” on the document.

Describing Russia’s actions as “insincere, to say in the least,” the Turkish foreign minister said such bombardments needed to stop targeting the moderate opposition and civilians, otherwise the conflict would continue for years.

Russia began air operations in Syria on Sept. 30 with the aim of supporting the embattled regime of al-Assad.

While Moscow has struck ISIL, especially after a Russian civilian airliner crashed in Egypt on Oct. 31, NATO has claimed Russia was targeting groups opposed to al-Assad, including some that enjoy U.S. and Turkish support.

At least 250,000 people have been killed since the Syria conflict began in 2011, according to U.N. figures.