Russian planes did not carry out strikes on the area of Idlib where Turkish units sustained aerial bombardments, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in a brutal attack by the Moscow-backed Assad regime on Thursday night.
Moscow has done everything to impose a full cease-fire by the Syrian regime since the country learned of Turkish casualties, the statement said.
The ministry said Turkey had not informed the Russian military about the presence of Turkish soldiers in the area of Syria's Idlib.
Later in the day, the Kremlin stated that Turkish troops should not be outside their observation posts and Russia did everything possible to ensure the safety of Turkish troops at observation posts.
Earlier this month, Turkey condemned Russia's policy of seeking to take control over the territory around Idlib, taking little consideration of the lives of local residents, adding that Ankara was determined not to roll back on the Sochi deal and would take the necessary steps to end the Assad regime’s aggression.
Turkey has called for an immediate halt to the attacks on Idlib and for the cease-fire to be followed, warning that if the attacks do not stop, Turkey would intervene. However, with the latest attack, the growing alarm in Ankara has meant tensions have reached a tipping point.
Late Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convened an emergency national security meeting on tensions in Idlib. Security sources told Daily Sabah that all ministers and senior officials, including the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan, were present at the meeting, which was convened at 9:30 p.m. and lasted nearly six hours.
Backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, Syrian regime forces have been fighting since the start of the year to recapture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighboring Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country. The advances have sent hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey in the biggest single displacement of the nine-year war.
It has also upset the fragile cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, which back opposing sides in the conflict.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg following the attack. A statement released later on Friday said Stoltenberg condemns attacks carried out by the Syrian regime and its backer Russia in Idlib, calling for an immediate halt.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone since then as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
More than 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to some intense attacks.
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