Syria targets Idlib instead of ‘terrorists in east Syria’ - Turkish VP Oktay

The Syrian government has focused all its attention on civilians in Idlib, “instead of terrorist organisations that took over the eastern part of the country,” Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday.

Turkey has been working to prevent another million deaths in Idlib on top of the more than one million civilians who lost their lives since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Oktay as saying.

Turkey’s “sacred cause” has never favoured conflict, and the country’s “only goal is to contribute to the establishment of a secure, peaceful and prosperous future for both ourselves and our Syrian brothers,” Oktay said.

“Even though the regime forces in Syria have focused all their attention on the innocent people of Idlib instead of terrorist organisations that took over the eastern part of the country, we believe that the agreement reached in Moscow will contribute to peace,” Oktay continued, referring to the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey and Russia agreed on Thursday to establish a ceasefire for Syria’s embattled rebel stronghold, and are set to re-launch joint patrols along the strategically significant M4 highway on March 15.

Russia had also played an integral role in the aftermath of Turkey’s October military incursion into the Kurdish-held northeast region last year, when it supported the Syrian government in their dealings with both Turkey and the SDF.

Oktay said Turkey bore the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in Idlib alone, not receiving “the necessary support” from the international community or countries involved in peace talks.

Nearly one million people have gathered at the Turkish border near Idlib, as they fled the fighting that has intensified since the Syrian government’s renewed efforts to end rebel control.