ANKARA: Russia said on Wednesday that the presence of Turkish troops and armor in Syria's Idlib region was making the situation there much worse as was the transport of weapons and ammunition across the Syrian-Turkish border.
Russia's Defence Ministry made the complaint after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's military would strike Russian-backed Syrian forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt as the Assad government tried to regain control of Idlib province.
Earlier, Putin and Erdogan have discussed de-escalation of the Syrian crisis, the Kremlin said, adding that Russian-Turkish agreements should be implemented in full.
“The importance was noted of the full implementation of existing Russian-Turkish agreements including the Sochi memorandum,” the Kremlin said in a statement after the Putin-Erdogan phone call.
The leaders reviewed “various aspects of the settlement of the Syrian crisis, first and foremost in the context of a flare-up in the Idlib de-escalation zone,” the statement said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Moscow remained committed to the agreements it struck with Ankara, but that Russia considered the attacks in Idlib to be unacceptable and in contravention of Moscow’s deal with Ankara.
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In 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed a memorandum to enforce a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib region from which “radical” fighters would be required to withdraw.
Russia insists, however, that groups of “terrorists” continue fighting in Idlib.
Meanwhile, a Turkish delegation will go to Moscow in coming days to discuss the escalating conflict in Syria’s Idlib region, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday, adding that around 1 million people had been displaced there due to Russian-backed Syrian attacks.
Speaking at a news conference in Tirana, Cavusoglu also said Germany had provided Turkey with $44 million in support of Turkish plans to settle Syrians fleeing from Idlib.
Earlier today, Erdogan said Turkey will strike Syrian government forces anywhere it sees in northern Syria if another Turkish soldier is hurt, and it could use air power.
Speaking in Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey is determined to push Syrian government forces beyond Turkish observation posts in the northwestern Idlib region by the end of February. “We will do this by any means necessary, by air or ground,” he said.
Syria’s Russia-backed government forces launched an all-out assault on Idlib in December, retaking town after town. Hundreds of thousands have fled and hundreds of civilians have been killed.
Turkey has backed some anti-regime groups in the eight-year conflict and set up military posts in Idlib under the 2018 deal.