Turkey expects Russia to stop Syrian gov’t attacks on Idlib: minister

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attends a joint news conference with the Russian president following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 10, 2017. The talks focused on Syria, where Russia and Turkey have launched a joint mediation effort and coordinated their military action against the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko

Turkey expects Russia to stop the Syrian government’s attacks in the northwestern region of Idlib immediately, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday, adding that Ankara needs to work with Moscow to resolve problems in the region, according to Reuters.

Shelling by Syrian forces killed eight Turkish military personnel on Monday, prompting retaliation. The escalation disrupted a fragile cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, which back opposing sides in the conflict, raising concerns over future collaboration.

On Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to drive back the Syrian forces in Idlib unless they withdraw from the region by the end of the month to stem an assault that he said had displaced close to 1 million people.

In televised comments to reporters in Baku, Çavuşoğlu said a Russian delegation would come to Turkey to discuss Idlib, adding that Erdoğan may have a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after those talks if necessary.

“Our expectation from the [Syrian] regime’s guarantors, and specifically Russia here, is to immediately stop the regime. We are discussing these issues with Russia, with whom we have worked until now,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“We conveyed our determination to our Russian counterparts,” he said adding that Ankara was determined to stem the “humanitarian drama” in Idlib.

The violence in Idlib, the last major rebel-held stronghold in the country’s nearly nine-year war, has accelerated in recent months despite several ceasefire efforts, including as recently as January, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The United Nations says 520,000 people have been displaced since early December and that the numbers could increase.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that Russian and Turkish “military specialists” were killed by militants who staged more than 1,000 attacks in Idlib in late January, adding that Moscow would continue to coordinate with Ankara and Tehran.

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