Russia prevented civilian deaths in Syria, Turkish minister says

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said Russia has prevented civilian deaths in Syria, Sputnik reported late on Thursday.

"When we look at Russia politically and strategically, in Syria, concerning the humanitarian tragedy in the region, the Turkey, Iran and Russia trio, especially after the Astana peace process, when the whole world has stayed silent, Russia has shown a strong reaction in humanitarian terms and followed a policy that prevents civilian deaths," Albayrak said, according to Sputnik.

The Astana peace process, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, was started in January 2017 by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Relations between Turkey and Russia, damaged by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane over the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015, have warmed significantly over the past two years, creating concern in NATO that Ankara’s alliances may be shifting eastwards.

Albayrak is the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Russia has supported the Syrian government since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. Moscow's backing turned into direct military involvement on Sept. 30, 2015.

Throughout the course of the intervention, Russian airstrikes have been criticised and highlighted for allegedly destroying hospitals and medical facilities and resulting in the death of several thousands of civilians. Russia also lost its seat on the UN Human Rights Council in Oct. 2016 after a campaign by rights groups over its bombing campaign in Syria.

Moscow says that it doesn’t plan airstrikes on civilians, rather it aims at liberating areas and targets Islamic State (ISIS) and other terrorist groups, their fuel and weapons depots and their organisational infrastructure.

Russia also gave the go-ahead for a Turkish military operation against Syria's Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in which hundreds lost their lives and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Turkey says it did everything to avoid casualties and did not target civilians.