Turkey denied Russian assertions on Thursday that a ceasefire had been put in place in Syria’s Idlib province and demanded Russia restore calm. Its request came after the Syrian army and its allies shelled and attacked a Turkish observation post there. Assad makes Putin look like a fool.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Syrian government forces had carried out what it assessed to be a deliberate attack. Assad forces fired 35 mortar shells at one of its observation post. The attack wounded three Turkish soldiers and damaed equipment and facilities.
Late on Wednesday, the Russian military said Moscow and Ankara had agreed a full ceasefire in Idlib.
TURKEY WANTS RUSSIA TO HOLD ASSAD ACCOUNTABLE
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Ankara would do whatever is necessary if attacks by Syrian government forces continue.
Cavusoglu said at a press conference with his French counterpart:
Right now, it is not possible to say a full ceasefire is in place but our efforts on this with Russia are continuing. If these (attacks) continue, we would do what is necessary, nobody should doubt that. Russia as the guarantor country should put pressure and we expect them to do that…We have serious, sincere efforts about this issue with Russia.
Northwestern Syria is the last part of the country rebels opposed to the Assad brutal regime still control. Both Russia and Turkey agreed to a de-escalation agreement since last year. The agreement provided a lull in the fighting.
Turkey has troops stationed at several locations in the area to monitor that agreement.
Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, the defense ministry said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said it had carried out four air strikes in support of the Syrian military against terrorists in Idlib, the RIA news agency reported.
The de-escalation agreement requires fighters from groups designated as terrorists to withdraw from territory. Syria accuses the rebels of violating it by allowing militants to operate. The rebels say the government is using the presence of fighters as an excuse for a major offensive since April.
ANOTHER HUMANITARIAN DISASTER IN THE MAKING
Assad attacking Idlib caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee the area in recent weeks. Many of the people fleeing had already been displaced from other parts of Syria during the eight year civil war.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said air strikes on rebel-held areas had paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning. They targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, it said, adding that the insurgents had also fired artillery at government forces.
Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government’s offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the jihadist groups that dominate in Idlib.
Recent and deliberate Turkish rapprochement with Russia is jeopardizing US-Turkish relations. Turkey is buying the S-400 missile defense system the US says it would interfere with its F-35 purchase agreement.