Turkey said on Sunday that it was continuing a military operation against the Russian-backed Syrian regime in the Idlib region in north-western Syria, but insisted it did not wish to enter. conflict with Moscow.
Although Turkey has reported striking targets in Syria since dozens of its troops were killed there on Thursday, it was the first confirmation of a full and continuous operation.
“After the heinous February 27 attack on Idlib, Operation” Spring Shield “continues successfully,” said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in a televised speech.
“We have neither the desire nor the intention to oppose Russia,” added the minister. Thirty-four Turkish soldiers have been killed in Syria since Thursday. “Our intention is to stop the regime’s massacres and prevent … migration,” he said.
“We expect Russia to end the regime’s attacks and use its influence to ensure that the regime withdraws from the borders of the Sochi agreement.”
The official Syrian news agency said two of its warplanes were shot down by Turkey in airspace over the Idlib region on Sunday. The announcement came just after Syria announced the closure of its airspace for flights and drones in the northwest of the country.
Turkey has 12 observation posts established in Idlib, held by the rebels, following an agreement concluded in 2018 between Ankara and Moscow in the seaside resort of Sochi in the Black Sea.
But the regime recently continued its attack, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing almost a million to flee their homes in the region.
Turkey, an ally of the rebels, and Russia, an ally of Damascus, worked closely to prevent a regime offensive in Idlib, despite opposing the nine-year war.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus to stand behind the agreed borders, or Ankara would use military force to repel the regime.
Akar said Turkish forces destroyed dozens of tanks, helicopters and howitzers, adding that 2,212 regime soldiers had been “neutralized”.
According to the war observer from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 26 Syrian soldiers were killed on Saturday in Turkish drone strikes.
Erdogan on Saturday called on Russia to “get out of our way” in Idlib and leave Turkey “face to face with the regime” in Idlib.
Latest developments have strained relations between Ankara and Moscow, but Erdogan will likely meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on Thursday or Friday, according to the Kremlin. AFP