Attacks in Syria’s Idlib must end, Turkey tells Russia


(Updates with statements from Rouhani paragraphs 7,8)

Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday he told his Russian counterpart  Sergey Lavrov that attacks in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib must stop immediately and a permanent ceasefire must be established, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“We told (Russia on Saturday) …that the aggression in Idlib must stop and that a lasting ceasefire has to be achieved now,” the Turkish minister told reporters during a briefing at the Munich Security Conference, adding that Turkish and Russian officials will discuss the issue in Moscow on Monday.

Çavuşoğlu’s statements arrive after President Tayyip Erdogan said his military will drive back Syrian forces if they do not withdraw out of Idlib by the end of the month.

Turkey, which backs rebels looking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been outraged since Syrian attacks in the region killed 13 Turkish troops in two weeks as part of an intensifed attack since January in the region by Russia-backed Syrian government forces.

Around 1,800 civilians have also died in other various attacks as millions of Syrians to flee towards the Turkish border, threatening an influx of refugees into Turkey, already home to 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

Russia and Turkey signed the Sochi deal in September 2018, in which both countries agreed that Idlib would remain a war-free zone in Syria.

Meanwhile, other main Assad backer Iran has called on Turkey to remain committed to the Sochi agreement,  Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Sunday.

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed [under the Sochi memorandum] to stay committed to two things,” Russia TASS news agency quoted Rouhani as saying.”First, Syria’s entire territory is to be controlled by Damascus. Second, it is necessary to continue fight against terrorists.”

Çavuşoğlu called on the U.N. to create an international monitoring mechanism in Idlib, which would maintain the former ceasefire and thus prevent most lives from being lost and civilians displaced.

Turkish and Russian officials are to meet in Moscow on Monday to further discuss the situation in Idlib.



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