Kremlin cannot guarantee safety of Turkey’s planes over Syria’s Idlib

Turkey confirmed on Sunday that it had launched a full military operation against Russian-backed Syrian forces following increasing clashes in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 March 2020

Kremlin cannot guarantee safety of Turkey’s planes over Syria’s Idlib

  • Turkey confirmed it had launched a full military operation against Russian-backed Syrian forces
  • Turkish military killed 19 Syrian soldiers in drone strikes on Sunday, and downed two regime planes

ISTANBUL: The Kremlin on Monday drew Turkey’s attention to a warning from the Russian Defence Ministry that Moscow could not guarantee the safety of Turkish planes flying in Syria after Damascus said it was closing the air space over the Idlib region.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan would hold talks on Syria in Moscow on Thursday. 

Erdogan will visit Russia to discuss the mounting tensions in Syria, his office said earlier.
“The president is due to pay a one-day visit to Russia on March 5,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Turkey confirmed on Sunday that it had launched a full military operation against Russian-backed Syrian forces following increasing clashes in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.
Ankara, which backs militants in the province, killed 19 Syrian soldiers in drone strikes on Sunday, and downed two regime planes.
But it remains determined to avoid direct clashes with Moscow, with which it shares significant defense and trade ties.
Despite being on opposing sides of the conflict, Turkey and Russia have coordinated closely in the past.
They secured a deal in Sochi in 2018 that led to Turkey establishing 12 military observation posts in Idlib to prevent a Syrian offensive and a fresh flood of refugees into Turkish territory.
But Syria and Russia look increasingly determined to regain full control of the area and an offensive launched in December has displaced close to a million civilians, and seen increasing clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces.
The latest escalation followed the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers last week in an air strike blamed on Damascus.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.