Turkey deploys army in Idlib, citing failure of negotiations with Russia

Turkey is unsatisfied with the results of the negotiations with Russia on the situation in Syria, and will continue to deploy troops and military vehicles in Idlib, said Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin after a meeting between Russian and Turkish delegations in Moscow, RIA Novosti reports.

The fourth round of negotiations in two weeks, featuring Russia’s Presidential Representative Alexander Lavrentyev and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and Turkey’s deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and Vice President Fuat Oktay, came to nothing.

“We did not accept the map [of de-escalation zone borders] proposed by Russia,” said Kalin, adding that Turkey will be sending armored vehicles and soldiers to northern Syria “to protect civilians”.

“We insist on the implementation of the Sochi memorandum on the Idlib de-escalation zone and the withdrawal of [Assad] regime forces outside of it. These are borders that were outlined two and a half years ago,” Kalin explained.

The memorandum allowed for Turkish army observation points. One such observation point – the base in Taftanaz – came under attack last week, and resulted in the death of five Turkish soldiers. Turkey responded on February 10 with a mass attack against the Syrian government army, and claimed to have eliminated 100 soldiers, three tanks, two firing points and a helicopter.

“Our goals are not oil or to capture territory. We only want to protect civilians and achieve stability in the region. The waves of refugees are gradually putting pressure on Turkey,” said Kalin.

The UN estimates that Assad’s offensive against Idlib, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, has already displaced 700,000 inhabitants of the Syrian province. They have moved towards the border with Turkey, where 3.5 million refugees, forced to flee the eight-year war, are already being housed in camps.

According to Anadolu, last week Turkey began deploying additional divisions with armored vehicles in Aleppo. The Turkish troops are focused in the Hatay province, which borders with Syria. 43 train cars with armored vehicles have been transferred to the border city of Iskenderun. Convoys of vehicles, special forces divisions and trucks with ammunition have also been arriving in the city.

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Alexey Yerkhov said that he has constantly been receiving threats addressed to himself personally and to Russia as a whole. “We will build skyscrapers from the skulls of your soldiers,” he cited as an example to Zvezda in an interview.

In connection with the threats, the Turkish government has ramped up security measures outside the Russian embassy, Irina Kazimova, press attaché of the Russian diplomatic mission, told RIA Novosti. “Indeed, the situation has deteriorated recently,” she said, adding that the threats are unlikely to be followed by any kind of action.

  Turkey, Russia, Idlib, Syria