Turkey to Russia: Syria regime attacks on Idlib must stop

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been intensifying his assault. (AP pic)

ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister said on Sunday he has told his Russian counterpart that the Damascus regime’s attacks on the last rebel-held bastion in Syria must stop.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been intensifying his assault on the holdout northwestern province of Idlib.

And tensions have been running high between Ankara and Moscow after 14 Turks were killed in shelling by Syrian government forces in the region.

“I stressed that the attacks in Idlib must stop and it was necessary to establish a lasting ceasefire that would not be violated,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists in Germany.

Cavusoglu met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday during the Munich Security Conference.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a 2018 deal reached between Ankara and Moscow in the Russian resort of Sochi to prevent a regime offensive.

But despite the agreement, Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have pressed ahead with an assault to retake the province, killing hundreds of people.

Four of the Turkish posts are believed to be encircled by Syrian forces, and Ankara has threatened to attack Damascus if they do not retreat by the end of February.

A Turkish delegation will head to Moscow on Monday, after Russian officials visited Ankara last weekend but no concrete agreement emerged.

Rebel supporter Turkey and Damascus ally Russia have worked closely on Syria in recent years despite being on opposing sides of the nine-year conflict.