Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Russia Resorts to Military Power to Enforce Syrian Regime Deployment in Idlib

Russia Resorts to Military Power to Enforce Syrian Regime Deployment in Idlib

Friday, 21 February, 2020 - 07:00
A Turkish armed forces convoy is seen in Idlib province, Syria. AP file photo
Moscow - Raed Jaber

Russia began on Thursday to use its military power to “enforce” the deployment of Syrian regime forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, and to halt an attack by Turkish-backed Syrian factions, which plan to advance towards the town of Nerab.

The Russian Defense Ministry said pro-Ankara militants, backed by Turkish artillery fire, breached the defenses of the Syrian army near the villages of Qmenas and Nerab in Idlib.

“Russian Su-24 attack aircraft were fired at Turkey-backed militants, helping the army repel the advancing fighters to Nerab and the nearby town of Saraqeb,” the ministry said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed concerns “over such support for militants from the Turkish armed forces.”

She said the incident is seen as a violation of the Russian-Turkish agreements on separating the armed opposition from terrorists, and creating a demilitarized zone, and it may provoke a further escalation in the conflict in that part of Syria.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 27 fighters were killed in the Idlib fighting. The Observatory confirmed the pullout of opposition factions from Nerab.

For its part, the Turkish Defense Ministry said two Turkish soldiers were killed and five injured in an airstrike in Idlib, adding that over 50 Syrians died in a retaliatory fire.

On Thursday, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (lower house) Defense Committee Andrei Krasov told the Russian Izvestia newspaper that Moscow is calling on Ankara to resolve the situation in Idlib by diplomatic means, stressing that a military scenario would only worsen things.

According to him, only the terrorists would benefit from a direct clash between the Syrian and Turkish armies.

The Kremlin announced on Thursday that arrangements were made to prepare for a summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran in Tehran next month to discuss the situation in Idlib.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a de-escalation zone in the province. However, the two sides failed to respect the deal.

Editor Picks