Kremlin responds to summoning of Russian ambassador by Turkey

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Russia has issued a statement regarding the summoning by the Turkish Foreign Ministry of its ambassador to Turkey, along with the Iranian envoy, for what Ankara says is the escalation of violence in the Syrian city of Idlib by Syrian government forces.

“The process of implementing agreements on de-escalation zones [in Syria] and the process of political settlement, in particular, the preparation of the National Congress in Sochi, require constant contacts [with Turkey] at various levels — on the expert level, at the highest level, on others as well. These contacts are being maintained, and, of course, such a close dialogue will continue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, Sputnik reported.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, and Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian Fard were on Tuesday summoned by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which expressed Turkey’s discomfort over what it says were attacks in Idlib carried out by Syrian government forces.

Idlib is located within one of the so-called de-escalation zones set up in Syria last September in an attempt to scale back the conflict. However, as the fighting continues, tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing the area, which is home to about 2 million people. Believed to be the largest remaining rebel-held area in Syria, hospitals, markets and bakeries across Idlib province have been hit by government air raids.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday had called on the governments of Iran and Russia to fulfill their responsibilities as guarantor states in Syria.

“Iran and Russia should fulfill their responsibilities [as guarantor states] in Syria,” Çavuşoğlu said in remarks to the Anadolu news agency.

His comment came in response to a recent attack by the Bashar al-Assad regime on moderate opposition groups in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.

He said Syrian regime forces were targeting the moderate opposition groups “on the pretext of fighting the Al-Nusra terrorist group.”

“If you are the guarantors – yes, you are — you should stop the regime. It’s not just a simple airstrike. The regime is on the move in Idlib. The intention here is different.”

Çavuşoğlu warned that the move would undermine the peace process in Syria and underlined that Turkey was the guarantor of the moderate opposition.

The foreign minister added that it was not appropriate to bomb the whole city on the pretext that some terrorists were hiding there.

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