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Turkey Expects Russia To Immediately Stop Syrian Regime Attacks In Idlib

Updated

Turkish military vehicles drive in a convoy headed for the south of Idlib Province as they pass by the town of Atareb on February 3.

Turkey says it expects Moscow to put an end to the Syrian government forces' attacks in the northwestern province of Idlib immediately.

Speaking on February 6 in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey needs to work with Russia to resolve problems in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to push back Syrian government forces in Idlib unless they withdraw from the region by the end of the month, after an attack by Syrian forces killed eight Turkish military personnel there on February 3.

Russia, along with Iran, has provided crucial support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions since it began with a crackdown on anti-government protesters in March 2011.

Russia and Ankara, which supports rebel groups in Syria, have agreed to work toward de-escalating the fighting in Idlib and creating a demilitarized zone.

Cavusoglu said that a Russian delegation would travel to Turkey to discuss Idlib and that Erdogan may meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin if necessary.

Meanwhile, a war monitor said that Syrian government forces battling rebels in Idlib were hit by Turkish artillery fire as they tried to seize the town of Saraqeb.

The previous day, government forces backed by air strikes had encircled and entered Saraqeb, 15 kilometers east of Idlib city, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Russia's Foreign Ministry on February 6 said that Russian and Turkish "military specialists" were killed by militants who staged more than 1,000 attacks in the last two weeks of January in the de-escalation zone in Idlib.

"There has recently been a dangerous increase in tension and a surge of violence in Idlib," according to the ministry, which said Russia continues to closely coordinate with Turkey and Iran on the ground in Syria.

On February 5 in Washington, James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria, said the United States was "very, very worried" about the Russia-backed assault on Idlib.

"This is a dangerous conflict. It needs to be brought to an end. Russia needs to change its policies," Jeffrey said.

Also, Syrian state media reported on February 6 that Israeli warplanes had fired missiles at targets near Syria's capital, Damascus.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian Army positions and those of Iran-backed militias were hit near Damascus and in the southern province of Daraa, killing 23 fighters.

Israel, which has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes in Syria in recent years to stop Iranian "military entrenchment," did not comment on the missile attack in Damascus.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, the BBC, and AFP
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