Recent attacks on Turkish observation posts have aggravated tensions between Turkey and Russia, despite efforts to de-escalate the situation in Idlib.
The Turkish Ministry of Defence announced the killing of five Turkish soldiers in an attack on an observation post in Taftanaz in Idlib on Monday. Despite efforts to contain the military escalation in north-western Syria, this is the second time Turkish soldiers have been killed this month, due to renewed bombing between the Turkish and Syrian army.
The attacks, which signify the first time Turkish and Syrian troops fought each other directly, along with Turkish responses, threaten to blow up the 2018 agreement between Russia, Iran and Turkey to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone. The countries support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, with Russia supporting Syrian Government Forces and Turkey backing the Opposition.
Recent clashes have encouraged Turkey to send military reinforcements and thousands of soldiers to Idlib to protect observation posts, as Ankara warns Syria to retreat to the cease-fire lines that were agreed in 2018. Reports state these reinforcements are part of preparations for an imminent ground operation.
Delegations from Turkey and Russia met in Ankara on Monday to discuss the escalating situation in Syria’s Idlib, after an initial round of talks failed to result in a compromise. Turkey’s presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, headed the Turkish delegation, whilst Russia’s delegation included Russia’s Syria envoy and military and intelligence representatives. Turkish officials reportedly told the visiting Russian delegation that assaults on Turkish observation posts must be stopped and will not remain unanswered.
Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. However, Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by the Russian army and Iranian militias, have been advancing into the last rebel-held areas of Idlib and the nearby Aleppo countryside. This has sparked a humanitarian crisis with nearly 600,000 people fleeing the area since December.