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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Turkey failed to honor Idlib deal, allowed outposts to merge with terrorist fortifications: Russia

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 04 March 2020 7:43 AM

Moscow says Ankara has failed to live up to its commitments under a deal to enforce a demilitarized zone in Idlib, complaining that the Turkish military has allowed its observation posts to merge with terrorist fortifications in the northwestern Syrian province.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov blasted Turkey for amassing troops in Idlib and the Western countries for turning a blind eye to the unlawful military build-up.

"No one in the West notices the actions of the Turkish side, which, in violation of international law, has deployed a strike force the size of a mechanized division to Syria's Idlib," he said.

Terrorist fortifications have merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, said the official, adding that "attacks and mass artillery fire on neighboring civilian settlements and the Russian airbase at Khmeimim turned from sporadic to daily."

"Amid the total cynicism and the West's fake concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, only the Russian center for reconciliation of the opposing sides and the legitimate Syrian government deliver to the liberated areas all the needed assistance for local residents daily," he said.

"All of Russia's official requests to the UN and Western countries – who delivered humanitarian aid across the Turkish border and all of it went not to refugees, but to terrorists – remained unanswered. All we heard were the lamentations about the need to 'preserve the Sochi agreements at all costs,'" he added.

Kremlin hopes Putin, Erdogan can reach 'common understanding'

Meanwhile, the Kremlin expressed hope on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would agree on a set of joint measures regarding Idlib during their meeting on Thursday.

"We plan to discuss the Idlib crisis... We expect to reach a common understanding on the crisis, the cause of the crisis, the harmful effects of the crisis and arrive at a set of necessary joint measures," he told reporters.

Erdogan expects Idlib truce after Moscow meeting

Meanwhile, Erdogan said that he expects his talks with Putin to result in the rapid achievement of a ceasefire in Idlib.

He further called on European states to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in dealing with the Syria refugee issue.

"If European countries want to solve the migration crisis, they should support Turkey's political and humanitarian solutions in Syria," the Turkish president said.

He also claimed that since the beginning of the Idlib operation, Turkey has "neutralized" 3,138 Syrian troops and destroyed "151 tanks, 100 artillery units, three warplanes, eight helicopters, eight air defense systems, 10 ammunition dumps, 60 armored vehicles and 47 howitzers."

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, under which Ankara was required to establish observation posts in the militant-controlled Idlib and separate extremist terrorist from other armed anti-Damascus militant groups willing to engage in peace talks with the Syrian government.

Turkey was also obliged to take effective measures to ensure a lasting ceasefire in the region.

Currently, however, terrorists rule supreme in Idlib in quite close proximity to the Turkish troops. They also continue to target Syrian troops and allied Russian personnel.

Syria launched a counter-terrorism offensive in Idlib and neighboring areas last December, but the campaign coincided with a massive deployment of troops and military equipment by Turkey, which is evidently upset by changing conditions on the ground.

Last week, the Turkish government allowed the refugees to enter Europe, after accusing the Europeans of not doing enough to help with the refugee problem as well as its failing to have Moscow stop Damascus' advances in Idlib.

It came on the back of an airstrike by Syrian forces in Idlib that killed at least 36 Turkish soldiers, whom Russia said were "in the battle formations of terrorist groups."

Top EU diplomat visits Turkey, urges Idlib de-escalation

On Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met with Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in Ankara to discuss the situation along the EU-Turkey border.

"Pressure and unilateral action are not an answer. We need to work hand in hand to address common challenges, for the benefit of both Turkey and the EU," Borrell tweeted.

He also sat down for talks with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and underlined the need for Idlib de-escalation.

Idlib is the only large territory in the hands of terrorists after the Syrian military managed to undo militant gains across the Arab country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

Two more Turkish forces killed

In a development on the Idlib battleground, two more Turkish soldiers were killed and six injured on Wednesday as government forces pushed ahead with the liberation operation.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement that its forces had immediately retaliated and continued to strike targets.

The incident brought to 59 the death toll of Turkish troops in their Idlib operation, which began last month.

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