Turkey, Russia trade accusations as Syria tensions rise
ANKARA/MOSCOW: Turkey’s president accused Russia of committing “massacres” in its support of the Syrian government on Wednesday, escalating a war of words as more Turkish reinforcements arrived on the ground.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to strike Syrian regime forces “everywhere” if its soldiers come under renewed attack, but Russia hit back and accused the Turks of failing to “neutralise terrorists” in the northwestern province of Idlib. Turkey has shored up its positions in recent days in Idlib — the last rebel bastion in Syria — with hundreds of vehicles carrying artillery and soldiers.
And a new convoy of Turkish armoured vehicles arrived Wednesday in the town of Binnish, northeast of Idlib city, in a new deployment, an AFP correspondent said.
Turkish officials say they have lost 14 soldiers in the past nine days and claim to have killed scores of Syrian government troops as they try to push back forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian forces backed by Russian air strikes have pressed ahead with an offensive to retake Idlib from rebel groups that began in December, despite a 2018 deal agreed between Turkey and Russia in Sochi.
The offensive — which has retaken numerous towns and a crucial motorway — has killed hundreds of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for safety in harsh winter conditions. – AFP