Turkish defence minister says Syria regime must halt Idlib attacks

Syria's army, backed by Russian air power, launched ground operations this week

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (frontR) exchanges documents with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (frontL) as Russian President Vladimir Putin (backR) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan applaud during a joint press conference following the talks, in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Sochi on September 17, 2018.  The leaders of the two countries that are on opposite sides of the conflict but key global allies will discuss the situation in Idlib at Putin's residence in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. / AFP / SPUTNIK / Alexander Zemlianichenko
Powered by automated translation

Turkey's defence minister said Syrian government forces need to halt attacks in northwestern Syria, state-owned Anadolu Agency reported on Friday.

Syria's army, backed by Russian air power, launched ground operations this week against the southern flank of a rebel zone consisting of Idlib and parts of adjacent provinces.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Syrian forces should return to territories agreed in an international deal in Kazakhstan to reduce hostilities and casualties.

"Humanitarian problems grow each day and it is increasingly showing a tendency to turn into a catastrophe," he said.

Mr Akar also said the attacks pose a threat to the security of Turkey's observation posts in the northwest, where Turkey carries out patrols.

"We expect Russia to take effective and determined measures to make regime forces stop their attacks on the south of Idlib and immediately return to the borders set by the Astana agreement," Mr Akar said, referring to the Kazakh capital by its previous name.

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said the operation was a reaction to terrorists in the area, and was being carried out "in coordination with our Turkish partners," Tass news agency reported.

The United Nations Security Council was briefed behind closed doors on Friday on the situation in northwest Syria. Afterward, 11 the 15 members – including the United States, France and Britain – jointly condemned the killing of civilians and warned of a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib.

"We are alarmed by the displacement of over 150,000 persons as well as the targeting of population centres and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools," Belgian UN Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve told reporters on behalf of the 11 members.