TEHRAN (Iran News) – The presidents of Turkey and Russia spoke over the phone on Friday, a day after the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike in northern Syria.
It was the highest number of Turkish soldiers killed in a single day since Turkey first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2016. The development was the most serious escalation in the conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces and raised the prospect of all-out war.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Turkish troops that came under fire in Idlib Province were deployed among “terrorist battle formations.” They were in the area of Behun, and according to coordinates given to Russia’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, “there were no Turkish military units in the area … and there weren’t supposed to be,” the ministry said.
Russia’s Air Force did not carry out airstrikes in the area, the statement added, and after receiving information about Turkish casualties, “the Russian side took all the necessary measures in order for the Syrian forces to stop the fire.”
Syria’s official news agency SANA carried a brief report saying Turkey has acknowledged its forces were killed “in operations of the Syrian Arab Army against a terrorist organization,” adding that Syrian troops at the time were repelling attacks by “terrorist groups backed by Turkey.”
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed implementing agreements in Idlib.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Moscow, said Russia remains committed to the agreements reached by Putin and his Turkish counterpart. Commenting on the deaths of the Turkish troops in Idlib, Lavrov said that if the agreements between the two countries’ armies — “including sharing of accurate coordinates of the Turkish troops’ location” — had been implemented in full, “such tragedies could have been avoided.”
Call for de-escalation
Iran on Friday called for an urgent containment of the chaotic situation in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib amid territorial gains made by Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, against foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists in their last major bastion in the country.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is closely monitoring and pursuing the field developments and the regional consequences in Idlib,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Given the previous decision made by senior officials attending the Astana [peace] process on holding this meeting in our country, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its efforts to hold the summit under the current critical circumstances,” it added.
Iran believes participants at the Astana summit can take effective measures to battle terrorism, avoid harm to civilians and resolve the conflict through diplomacy, the statement said.
In recent weeks, Turkey has sent thousands of troops as well as tanks and other equipment to Idlib. As recently as Wednesday, Erdogan gave the Syrian government until the end of February to pull back from its recent advances in Idlib where the Syrian Army has waged a major campaign to oust terrorists from their last holdout or face Turkish “intervention”.
Turkey has had 54 soldiers killed in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province since the beginning of February, including the latest fatalities.
Refugees in Turkey headed toward European frontiers on Friday after an official declared that borders had been thrown open in response to the escalating war in Syria.
“We will no longer keep the doors closed for refugees who want to go to Europe,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The refugees moved to the land border with Greece, taking minibusses and taxis from Istanbul. Dozens waited at the Turkish side of the border gate at Pazarkule and dozens of others were in no man’s land between the two countries.
Others headed to Turkey’s west coast to attempt to reach the Greek islands, a short distance away. Several rubber dinghy boats with groups of people clambering aboard were seen on Friday, heading for the island of Lesbos after apparently setting off from Ayvacik, northwest Turkey in broad daylight.
A Greek police official said dozens of people had gathered on the Turkish side of the land border in Greece’s northeastern Evros region, shouting “open the borders.” Greek police and military border patrols were deployed on the Greek side to prevent anyone from trying to cross without authorization.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy warned the movement of migrants to the West could continue if the situation in Idlib deteriorated.
Bulgaria said it was also beefing up security on its border with Turkey to counter a possible migrant influx, deploying “army units, national guard and border police staff,” Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said after a cabinet meeting. “There is a real threat” of a new migrant wave from Turkey, he said.
AP, Reuters, AFP, and Press TV contributed to this story.
- source : Iran Daily, Irannews