Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday strongly condemned Russia for conducting an air strike that killed dozens of pro-Ankara rebels in Syria.
“Russia’s attack on the training centre of the Syrian national army forces in the Idlib region shows it does not want lasting peace in the region,” Erdogan said in a televised address.
A Russian war plane on Monday hit a training centre for Turkish-backed fighters in the northwestern Syrian province near Turkish border.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack killed 78 fighters in the bloodiest surge in violence since a truce almost eight months ago.
The pro-Ankara group, known as Faylaq al-Sham, retaliated by killing at least 15 Moscow-backed fighters, the monitor said.
Faylaq al-Sham is a Sunni Islamist group that has acted as Turkey’s proxy during several Turkish military campaigns on Syrian soil, and has also been the source of pro-Ankara mercenaries sent to fight in Libya.
A truce at the start of the year brought an end to a Russia-backed Syria regime offensive that had killed more than 500 civilians and displaced almost one million people.
It was one of the worst humanitarian crises of Syria’s nine-year civil war.
The last major rebel stronghold covers around half of Idlib province as well as slivers of adjacent provinces.