Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart discussed ways to reduce tension in Syria’s Idlib province, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, after the biggest military escalation in northwest Syria in nearly a year. Russia has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has backed some rebels in Syria’s eight-year civil war, but they have recently worked together to try to contain fighting in the country’s northwest. That effort has been strained by the surge in violence in Syria’s last major insurgent stronghold in recent weeks. The offensive by the Syrian army and its allies, backed by Russia, has uprooted more than 150,000 people, the United Nations says, while rescue workers and civil defence officials say more than 120 civilians have been killed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the attacks by Syrian forces a flagrant violation of a September ceasefire that had averted a government offensive. He said in a tweet on Tuesday it went counter to the spirit of Turkey’s efforts to work with Russia and Iran to reduce hostilities and casualties in Idlib and neighbouring areas. On Monday, rebels said they mounted a counterattack against government forces. A senior rebel commander said on Tuesday the offensive showed an array of rebel forces – from Turkey-backed rebels to jihadists – were still able to prevent the army from making major advances despite heavy air strikes. “We conducted this lighting offensive to show the Russians we are not easy prey and throw the
“The delivery has been started already. And as President [Vladimir] Putin said, after that incident […] the measures which we will take will be devoted to ensure 100 percent safety and security of our men in Syria,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference following his speech at the UN General Assembly on Friday in New York.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Monday to try to come to an agreement over the Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib. Vladimir Putin said: “We have a lot of issues to discuss, including difficult ones,” Putin said at the start of the talks at his residence in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
Chased out of their own homelands and targeted in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, experienced foreign jihadists embraced Syria's war as their own starting around 2013, two years into the conflict.
Many joined the Islamic State group but others stuck by Al-Qaeda and its former Syrian affiliate -- which now leads the powerful Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance dominating Idlib.
Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Russian-backed offensive. Witnesses and rescuers said at least a dozen air strikes hit a string of villages and towns in southern Idlib and the town of Latamneh in northern Hama, where rebels are still in control.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in the rebel-held region of Idlib in northwest Syria on Friday and said an anticipated government assault on insurgents there could result in a massacre. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Moscow opposed a truce, and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.