Turkey demands Russian ceasefire in Syria's Idlib

Turkey's renews pressure on Russia for Idlib ceasefire as minister visits Moscow
2 min read
25 December, 2019
Turkey is renewing pressure on Russia to implement a ceasefire in Idlib, as tens of thousands flee towards the Turkish border.
Idlib's families are fleeing towards the Turkish border in their thousands [Getty]

A spokesman for the Turkish president announced on Tuesday that Ankara had begun talks with Moscow with the aim of brokering a new ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib, the country’s last major rebel-held stronghold.

In a press conference in the Turkish capital, Ibrahim Kalin told reporters “We are following the process closely with the goal of bringing an end to the bombardment. Attacks must stop immediately, implemented under a new ceasefire. This is what we demand from Russia”

Idlib has witnessed a major upsurge in violence, as the Syrian regime and its Russian allies launch a new offensive to capture the stronghold.

On Tuesday, at least eight people, including five children were killed when missiles struck a school for displaced civilians near Saraqib, east of Idlib. Activists blame Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s principal ally, for the attack on the school.

Read more: Suspected Russian strike on Idlib school kills 8, including 5 children

Despite a joint Russian and Turkish deal to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in September 2018, since then more than 1300 civilians have been killed in air-strikes and over 1 million displaced, in the ensuing chaos.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has vowed to take back the entire area.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogran warned that Turkey could no longer “hand a new refugee wave from Syria”. In the past few weeks, thousands of Syrians have fled north towards the Turkish border.

Read more: Turkey cannot handle new Syria refugee flow alone

A Turkish delegation, led by the Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, was in Moscow on Tuesday for talks on the escalating situation.

Presidential spokesman Kalin added that the delegation had “exerted all possible efforts in the past 24 hours to bring an end to the Syrian regime’s bombing campaign”

Turkey currently has 12 observation posts across Idlib, based on a deal struck with Russia in September last year. These were establish to protect Turkish forces from attacks from the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran-backed militia groups.

Since Thursday, regime forces supported by Russian airstrikes have taken control of over 40 towns and villages, as they push towards the beseiged city of Maaret al-Numan. The city sits on a key strategic highway which links Allepo to the Syrian capital, Damascus.

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