Photo Credit: Sedat Suna/EPA-EFE

The Syrian government’s military forces carry out strikes in Idlib only against terrorists and not civilians, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov reassured reporters Wednesday, when commenting on a statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish leader earlier claimed that the Russian and Syrian militaries had delivered strikes on civilians in Idlib.

“Regarding the strikes on Idlib, which the Syrian military is carrying out, these are strikes against terrorists and not against civilians,” Peskov said, noting that these strikes pursue the goal of “neutralizing terrorists and their belligerent activity.”

Peskov noted that the situation in Idlib, northwestern Syria, “was rather tense and still alarming.” He also stressed that “the Kremlin adhered to the Sochi agreements, under which the sides had undertaken certain commitments.”

“In particular, under this document, Turkey made a commitment on ensuring the neutralization of terrorist groups concentrated in Idlib. Now we still regret to say that these groups from Idlib are delivering strikes on the Syrian forces and also carrying out aggressive acts against our military facilities,” Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman emphasized that this situation was unacceptable and ran counter to the Sochi agreements.

Russian-Turkish agreements

In late October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Russia’s Sochi to agree on a ten-point memorandum on joint operations to control the situation in northeastern Syria. Under the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards were deployed to Syrian territories adjacent to Turkey’s 30-kilometer buffer zone.

Turkey’s national defense ministry said on January 10 that Ankara and Moscow had agreed on a ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone in northern Syria from January 12.

Idlib is the only large Syrian region that is still controlled by illegal armed groups. A northern de-escalation zone was set up in Idlib in 2017 to give shelter to militants and their families who were reluctant to voluntarily surrender arms in Eastern Ghouta and in Syria’s southern regions. Twelve Turkish observation points are operating in the Idlib Governorate.

Source: TASS, February 12, 2020