Russia says it has agreed with Turkey to ease tensions in Syria’s embattled Idlib province, the last major terrorist stronghold in the war-torn country.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Russia says it has agreed with Turkey to ease tensions in Syria’s embattled Idlib province, the last major terrorist stronghold in the war-torn country.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow and Ankara had during high-level talks reached a consensus on reducing Idlib tensions.
“On both sides, the focus has been on reducing tensions on the ground while continuing to fight terrorists recognized by the United Nations Security Council,” the statement read.
Speaking in Istanbul on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he had asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to step aside in Idlib and leave Ankara to deal with Damascus alone.
“I asked Mr Putin: ‘what’s your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime,'” Erdogan said, recalling his Friday’s telephone conversation with the Russian president.
He further complained that Turkey can no longer handle new waves of refugees and would let them travel on to Europe.
“What did we do yesterday (Friday)? We opened the doors,” he said. “We will not close those doors …Why? Because the European Union should keep its promises.”
Erdogan also estimated that 18,000 migrants have amassed on the Turkish borders with Europe since Friday, warning that the number could reach as many as 30,000 on Saturday.
Tensions surged in Idlib on Thursday after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike by Russian-backed Syrian forces.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the targeted Turkish troops “were in the battle formations of terrorist groups.”
On Friday, Turkey, which backs anti-Damascus militants, hit 200 Syrian government targets, “neutralizing” 309 soldiers.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that the Turkish military had also destroyed five Syrian government helicopters, 23 tanks, 10 armored vehicles, 23 howitzers, five ammunition trucks, two air defense systems and three ammunition depots.
Drone footage released by the Turkish military showed blistering attacks on tanks, howitzers and soldiers.
However, a senior Turkish official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed on Saturday that Turkey had destroyed “a chemical warfare facility, located some 13 kilometers south of Aleppo,” along with a large number of other Syrian government targets.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights challenged the claim, saying Turkey had struck a military airport in eastern Aleppo, where there are no chemical weapons.