Turkey has expressed concern over the pro-Assad offensive trying to take over opposition-held Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Defying a de-escalation zone proclaimed this autumn by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the Assad regime’s military and its foreign allies have moved into southeast Idlib, taking over a series of villages and the town of Sinjar. Russia has reportedly supported the operations, using the pretext that they are against the hardline Islamist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, excluded from the de-escalation arrangements.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian and Iranian ambassadors on Turkey, stating that regime forces had “violated the ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone”.
A Foreign Ministry official said, “We voiced our reaction and concerns in this regard, also asking [the Russian Ambassador] to convey the information to the regime in order to make it stop such actions.”
The Russian embassy in Ankara made no comment on the summons.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu condemned the pro-Assad attacks, explaining that the regime and its allies are attacking rebels and civilians “under the guise of fighting terrorists”.
He said Russia and Iran have no excuses over the attacks, as violations cannot happen without the support of the two countries.
“This attitude will harm the process for political solution,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters. He said the Assad regime should refrain from attacking opposition elements “who it will meet in the Sochi meeting”, prospective talks for a “national congress” to be held in southern Russia.
Turkish forces intervened in August 2016 alongside rebels, taking northern Aleppo Province from the Islamic State. Last autumn, Ankara showed a military interest in Idlib with the entry of personnel, in large part to present a frontline with Kurdish forces whom Turkey considers as part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
Another Doctor Killed by Idlib Bombing
Another doctor has been killed by pro-Assad airstrikes on Idlib Province.
Ahmad Shahhad was slain in Jarjanaz, near Idlib city.
The latest assaults, reportedly including Russian as well as Assad regime warplanes, have knocked out at least 10 medical facilities across the province.
More than 820 medical personnel have been killed by Assad regime operations during the 81-month Syrian conflict.
Turkey’s TRT reports on the assault on civilians:
UN Concern Over Displaced
In Idlib Province, which now has 2.65 million Syrians — of whom 44% are displaced from other areas — more than 130,000 people have reportedly fled from the south to the north because of the recent pro-Assad offensives, according to the Turkish charity IHH. The UN has officially recorded the movement of more than 71,000 people since December.
Assad & Putin's plan to cleanse enemy civilians from northern Hama and southern Idleb has led to more than 70,000 displacements from these areas since December – war crimes on top of war crimes pic.twitter.com/YlMtvNCSQP
— kristyan benedict (@KreaseChan) January 9, 2018
UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said on Monday:
The UN is deeply concerned for the safety and protection of tens of thousands of people in southern Idlib and rural Hama in northeastern Syria, where ongoing hostilities have reportedly caused hundreds of deaths and injuries of civilians.
With the onset of winter, safe shelter is among the biggest concerns, as many families are fleeing into areas that are already at full capacity or into communities with depleted resources.
Dujarric said that more than 13 million people in the country need basic aid and protection.