Russian delegation to arrive in Ankara on Saturday to discuss Idlib: FM
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Russian delegation to arrive in Ankara on Saturday to discuss Idlib: FM

Cavusoglu said Turkey, which hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and Russia, will work closely to resolve the crisis

News Service AA

In the wake of the regime's attack on Turkish troops in Idlib, Syria, a Russian delegation is expected to arrive in Ankara on Saturday to discuss the escalating situation, Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday.

The announcement by Mevlut Cavusoglu came at a joint news conference in the capital city with his Slovakian counterpart Miroslav Lajcak.

Earlier this week, Syrian regime forces attacks killed seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian. In retaliation, the Turkish military targeted more than 50 positions and neutralized over 70 regime troops, according to Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Cavusoglu said Turkey, which hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and Russia, will work closely to resolve the crisis.

Asked about the latest developments in the strategic city of Saraqib, east of Idlib, Cavusoglu said the situation there remained critical as attacks by the regime continue.

Owing to the ongoing attacks hundreds of thousands of civilians had been displaced, he said, adding that despite agreements in Sochi and Astana, the regime's aggression had risen. "The benefits of the deals are yet to be seen," he said.

The foreign minister said that Ankara will go all out in its efforts to ensure a permanent cease-fire and prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib -- the last stronghold of opposition forces in the war-torn country.

On Thursday, Russia-backed Syrian forces advanced through Idlib province in a brutal ground offensive that was preceded by weeks of intensive aerial bombardment. This has terrified the civilians who have left their homes for shelter to safe havens.

Since March 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed by the regime and millions have been displaced, besieged and denied humanitarian and medical aid.

In 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran held meetings in Astana city of Kazakhstan and announced that Idlib and neighboring cities in the Eastern Ghouta region outside the capital Damascus, and the southern cities of Daraa and Quneitra would be de-escalation zones.

But the Assad regime and Iranian-backed terrorist groups launched attacks in violation of the agreements, and thanks to Russian air support, gained control of these territories with the exception of Idlib city.

Later in September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed in Sochi to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, including a fresh truce on Jan. 12, launching frequent attacks inside the zone and killing at least 1,300 civilians since then.

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