Russian, Turkish FMs to Meet Sunday amid Syria Tensions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Munich on Sunday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday, amid mounting tensions over Syria.
On Thursday evening, Russia's foreign ministry criticized statements from Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar about Syria's Idlib, after Ankara said it would use force against opposition groups violating a ceasefire in the region.
Turkey has allied with some opposition factions in Idlib against regime leader Bashar Assad, and has boosted its troops, arms and equipment in the region after 13 of its soldiers were killed by Damascus’ forces in just over a week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his NATO-member military would strike Russia-backed Syrian forces if another Turkish soldier was hurt, and he blamed Moscow for targeting civilians.
Russia, which supports Assad, in turn accused Turkey of flouting agreements it made with Moscow and of aggravating the situation in Idlib. The Kremlin said Ankara had failed to neutralize fighters there, as per a 2018 agreement to establish a de-escalation zone.
The flare-up of fighting has given rise to some of the most serious confrontations between Ankara and Damascus in the nine-year-old war that, since early December in Idlib alone, has displaced hundreds of thousands.
Aid workers said families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Idlib were sleeping in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting winter weather.
Since last week, Ankara has deployed more than 1,000 troops to its military posts in Idlib.
Turkey has repeatedly urged Russia to stop the Syrian attacks in Idlib, warning that it will use military power to push back the regime forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month.