Jun 13 2019

No cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib after attack on Turkish observation post - foreign minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu refuted on Thursday reports of a complete cease-fire in Idlib on Thursday, after a Turkish observation post was attacked in the Syrian province, state-run Anadolu Agency reported

Citing Russian military sources, Russian news agencies on Wednesday night reported that Ankara and Moscow had brokered a truce in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, the last major rebel-held province in Syria, where violence has escalated in recent months due to armed clashes between rebel groups and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Three Turkish soldiers were lightly wounded during an attack in Idlib by mortar shells, Turkish Defence Ministry said on Thursday. According to the ministry, the shells were fired from areas under Syrian government control. 

“Right now, it is not possible to say a full ceasefire is in place, but our efforts on this with Russia are continuing,” Çavuşoğlu said in Ankara said at a press conference with his French counterpart.

“We think that this was intentional,” said Çavuşoğlu in relation to the attack against Turkey’s 10th observation post in Idlib. “We are talking to Russia about this issue. If the (Syrian) regime continues such attacks, we will do whatever is necessary,” he said. 

Turkish minister called on Moscow and Tehran to "fulfill their responsibility".

Russian aircraft targeted terrorist positions in Idlib in four airstrikes using coordinates provided by Turkey after the attack on the Turkish observation point, Russian Defence Ministry said in a written statement on Thursday. 

“Using the coordinates provided by the Turkish side, four bomb strikes were carried out by the Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft. As a result, large concentrations of militants and field artillery positions from which the Turkish observation post had been shelled were destroyed,” the Russian ministry said. 

Russian officials blamed the attack against Turkish observation post on the al Qaeda linked Nusra Front. The group has not been active in Syria since 2017, but merged with other jihadist groups to form Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), one of the most powerful opposition groups remaining in Idlib.

Ankara and Moscow struck a deal in September to prevent a military assault of the Syrian government in Idlib, which hosts around 3 million internally displaced people. According to the deal, Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised buffer zone and remove extremist fighters such as those belonging to HTS.