Russia urges Turkey to adhere de-escalation deal in Syria's Idlib

The Kremlin said on Tuesday the Russian-Turkish de-escalation deal had to be braced, and all aggression on Russian and Syrian government forces in Syria’s Idlib province should halt, Reuters reported.

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement to prevent the Syrian government's attack on Idlib in September 2018 on the condition that Turkey cleared extremist groups from the northern province. Turkey built 12 military observation posts around the province according to the terms of the deal.

But the Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russia, resumed its assault on Idlib in April, saying the continued presence of extremist rebel groups had breached the agreement.

Five Turkish soldiers were killed in a shelling attack on Monday, the second in the province in a week after eight Turkish military personnel were killed on Feb. 3. Turkey said it hit hundreds of Syrian government targets and killed scores of soldiers in response.

“At the moment, we consider the most important thing is the implementation of... agreements (between Russia and Turkey)... and of course the suppression of any terrorist activity directed against the Syrian armed forces and Russian military facilities,” Reuters quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying during a press conference.

“We consider such sorties from Idlib unacceptable,” Peskov said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Twitter Washington stood by Ankara against attacks on Turkey in Idlib.

A Russian delegation arrived in Turkey on Saturday to discuss the Idlib offensive amid heightened tensions over the killing of Turkish soldiers by Assad’s forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Moscow on Feb. 5 of failing to honour the de-escalation deal, adding that the current situation in the province implied the collapse of the Astana process launched by Ankara, Moscow and Tehran in January 2017 to explore a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Moscow maintains that Turkey has failed to fulfil its obligations to clear the province of extremist groups.