Erdogan accuses Syria regime of undermining Turkey-Russia deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the attacks risked undermining the fate of the political process in Syria. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019

Erdogan accuses Syria regime of undermining Turkey-Russia deal

  • Clashes in Idlib province in northwestern Syria have killed at least 42 fighters in 24 hours
  • The offensive by President Bashar Assad’s forces ‘sought to sabotage Turkish-Russian cooperation’

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Syrian regime of “seeking to sabotage” Ankara’s relationship with Russia through its latest offensive in the northwest of the war-torn country.
Clashes in Idlib province in northwestern Syria have killed at least 42 fighters in 24 hours, a monitor said Monday, and the regime bombardment on the region has devastated health services.
Idlib’s three million inhabitants are supposed to be protected by a buffer zone deal signed last September by Russia and Turkey.
Erdogan told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during a phone call late on Monday that the offensive by President Bashar Assad’s forces “sought to sabotage Turkish-Russian cooperation,” according to Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, on Twitter.
The readout of the phone call made no mention of the fact that Russian forces are involved in the Syrian offensive.
Russia and Turkey are on opposing sides of the conflict, with Moscow strongly supporting Assad, while Ankara has called for his ouster and supported Syrian rebels in the civil war since it began in 2011.
However, Turkey and Russia have worked closely, along with Iran, to find a political solution to the conflict.
Erdogan lamented that “the regime’s cease-fire violations targeting the Idlib de-escalation zone over the last two weeks have reached an alarming dimension.”
He said it was impossible to explain it as a counter-terror effort given the number of casualties and damage to health services.
The Turkish leader also warned that the attacks risked undermining the fate of the political process in Syria.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 loyalists and 19 militants died between Sunday and Monday in clashes in the area of Jabal Al-Akrad in Latakia province, which lies on the bastion’s northwestern edge.
Russian and regime aircraft bombarded the area on Monday, while they also hit southern parts of the militant stronghold, said the Britain-based war monitor.
HTS and its allies launched a counter-attack late Monday, bombing areas in the north of the province and sparking fierce clashes on the ground, according to the Observatory.
The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 30 min 41 sec ago

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.