Neither Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will want to let Syria’s Idlib, to ruin their relationship, despite diverging interests in war-torn country, Aron Lund, a fellow with The Century Foundation think tank, wrote in the World Politics Review on Wednesday.
The Turkish president may just be flexing his military muscles in Syria’s last rebel stronghold, Lund wrote, pointing to Ankara’s desire for new leverage in talks with Moscow, which has positioned itself as Idlib’s kingmaker.
Seven Turkish soldiers and three civilians were killed and several were wounded in intense shelling by Russia-backed Syrian government forces in Syria’s last rebel-held enclave of Idlib on Monday. Turkish forces retaliated immediately after the attack, “neutralising’’ 76 Syrian soldiers, according to the country’s defence ministry.
The move is a renewed effort intitated by President Bashar al-Assad to recapture Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold.
Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces on Wednesday entered Idlib’s strategic town of Saraqeb, as Damascus continues to push for full control of the province, a war monitor said.
Turkey’s attack earlier this week is the first direct assault by the Turkish military on the Russia-backed Syrian army in the country’s nine-year war.
While opposition sources depict Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive as an attack on vulnerable civilians, the article said, Damascus maintains it is combating hard-line jihadists, in both narratives that portray the truth.
For Turkey, one of the greatest concerns remains the influx of desperate refugees fleeing Idlib toward the Turkish border, the article underlined, pointing to some 3.5 million Syrian refugees already living in Turkey.
Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced in Idlib since early December, according to the U.N.
It remains to be seen whether Turkey’s sudden show of force will change Assad’s calculus, or that of his Russian ally, Lund wrote, noting that backroom negotiations are most likely to win the day as Idlib residents continue to be trapped in chaos.