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Erdogan Says Turkey Will not Allow Syrian Regime to Advance in Idlib

Erdogan Says Turkey Will not Allow Syrian Regime to Advance in Idlib

Tuesday, 4 February, 2020 - 16:45
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, February 3, 2020. Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Turkey will not allow the Syrian government to gain territory in the northwestern region of Idlib, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Tuesday, a day after eight Turkish personnel were killed in an attack Ankara blamed on Syrian troops.

Earlier, Turkey urged Russia to rein in Syrian government forces in Idlib, after the attack rattled a fragile cooperation between the two countries, which back opposing sides in the war.

Speaking on a flight back from Ukraine, Erdogan said there was no need to be in “serious contradiction” with Russia over developments in Syria for now, adding that Ankara and Moscow will sit down to talk about the issue “without anger”. He also said he may call Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

An attack by Russian-backed Syrian government forces that killed eight Turkish military personnel on Monday posed the biggest challenge to Russian-Turkish ties since their 2018 deal to stem fighting in Syria's northwest Idlib region.

Earlier on Monday, Erdogan told Russian forces there to "stand aside" while Turkey struck dozens of targets in retaliation. Moscow and Ankara then argued about whether Turkey had told Russia it was sending waves of reinforcements into Idlib.

"There is no need for us to be engaged in a conflict or a serious contradiction with Russia at this stage," he was quoted as telling reporters on a flight from Ukraine.

"We will of course sit down and discuss everything. Not with anger, though. Because those who sit down with anger, get up with losses," Erdogan added.

The Idlib violence has accelerated in recent months despite several ceasefire efforts, including as recently as January.

United Nations regional spokesman David Swanson said 520,000 people had been displaced since the beginning of December and the numbers could swell further.

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