As casualties escalate, Turkish FM urges Russia to intervene in Idlib
Among several foreign policy threats, the Idlib Crisis is the closest that can hurt Erdogan’s standing and potentially cause a military clash
In as much as Turkey’s CDS premiums decline sharply over the last 2 months, there is no visible improvement in the political arena. Turkey is now embroiled in the Libyan civil war, in addition to its endless clashes with EU and US, as well as becoming an integral part of the War in Syria. Among several foreign policy threats, the Idlib Crisis is the closest that can hurt Erdogan’s standing and potentially cause a military clash.
Russian warplanes have carried out fresh air strikes in the de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, killing at least 26 civilians, a Syrian civil defence group said Tuesday.
The victims included nine members of a single family, six of whom were children, in Kafr Taal, eight in Kafr Nuran, two each in Jidarya and Kafr Nahaada, one each in Erhab and Tamanin in the western countryside of Aleppo province, according to White Helmets.
Another child was killed in Aleppo’s Takad village while two other civilians were killed in Idlib’s Bara village.
“Over the past three days, the bombardment on Idlib and its surroundings, including in western Aleppo, has been exclusively Russian,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The recent casualties came after a report from Syria’s Response Coordination Group which said that Syrian regime and its backer Russia conducted over 300 air strikes in Idlib, resulting in the deaths of around 50 civilians, including children and women.
Although the Russian Defence Ministry announced that a ceasefire went into effect as of January 9, the regime and Iranian-backed groups maintained ground attacks on the opposition-held city.
On January 10, Turkey announced that a new ceasefire in Idlib rocked by violence would start on January 12.
Turkey’s foreign minister on Jan. 22 said the Syrian regime’s attacks in the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib are “unacceptable” and called on Russia to abide by a recent ceasefire brokered by Ankara and Moscow as a guarantor state.
“The [Syrian] regime’s attacks on civilians, without any discrimination, are unacceptable. We expect Russia to commit to the ceasefire’s pledges as the regime’s guarantor,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at the 50th annual meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos.
The minister’s remarks came at the “Geopolitical Outlook: The Middle East and North Africa” panel when he was asked about Turkey’s relations with Russia.
Çavuşoğlu also said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also voiced concern about Idlib to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Jan. 19 Berlin summit on Libya.
But the different perspectives of Ankara and Moscow do not pose an obstacle to cooperate on significant issues, according to the top diplomat. He also added that Turkey is in dialogue with Iran as well concerning matters on Syria.
Around 27,000 civilians have fled their homes falling inside the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria over the last three days due to attacks of regime and its allies.
The attacks of Bashar al-Assad regime, Russia and Iran-backed terrorist groups in residential areas east and south of Aleppo province continue to displace thousands of Syrians.
According to Syria’s Response Coordination Group, the displaced civilians headed to areas near the Turkish border due to the attacks which violate the cease-fire agreement between Turkey and Russia.
Mohammad Hallaj, the director of the group, told Anadolu Agency that the civilians left their homes in Darat Izzah district and several towns, including Khan Tuman, Khan al-Asal, Kafr Naya, and al-Qasimia due to attacks supported by Russian air strikes.
Due to the increasing displaced population, the tent camps in Idlib fail to meet the need of war-weary Syrians as there is not enough space to set up more tents. Thousands of families are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
According to several polls, Turkish voters are unhappy with the influx of Syrian refugees, holding AK Party accountable for its open door policy. If Syrian National Army captures Idlib City, up to 400K refugees may flock to Turkish border, which Turkey will have no option but admit. As well, up to 40K well-armed and war-hardened jihadists may hide among the civilian population, helping ISIS to rebuild Turkey into a second home.
Preliminary talks between Turkish Syrian top spies failed to broker a truce between two respective regimes, with Damascus demanding total and unconditional withdrawal of Turkish troops from its territory. The problem is several surveys among Syrian refugees reveal they won’t return to a country run by Assad. Turkey’s strategy is to hang on to cantons across its border to harass Assad with the hope of convincing him into a peace agreement where refugees would have meaningful political representation.
It is still unclear how Ankara intends to respond to further aggression by Syrian National Army in Idlib, supported by Russia tacitly, when so much is at stake at home. Yet, given Turkey’s penchant for preferring military solutions to diplomatic disagreement, it is not hard to fathom Turkish Army assuming a more muscular role in defending Idlib.
Turkish press sources,
Comments by Atilla Yesilada