Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called on Russia and Iran to pressure the Syrian regime to stop attacking Turkish military observation points in north-western Syria.
During his visit to the southern Turkish province of Hatay yesterday, Cavusoglu stated that “Turkey won’t tolerate Syrian regime harassment of its soldiers,” just hours after the attack occurred. He stressed that Ankara “will teach them their place,” but that essentially it is the responsibility of Russia and Iran to halt the attacks.
The artillery attack, which Syrian regime forces launched from Tall Bazan in Idlib province to the town of Murak where the Turkish observation post is situation, caused damage to the outpost but did not result in any casualties. Shortly after the assault, Turkish forces retaliated against the regime with heavy weapons.
It is the second such attack on an observation point within a week, and signals greater tension between Turkey and the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, who has been protected and backed by both Russia and Iran throughout the Syrian conflict.
Following the attack on Turkey’s 10th observation post near the Mount Zawiyah area last Thursday, in which three Turkish soldiers were wounded by the mortar shells, the country sent reinforcements to the post on Saturday and Cavusoglu vowed retaliation if the “deliberate act of aggression” was again carried out.
That first attack, however, broke the ceasefire agreement in Idlib between Turkey and Russia only hours after it was made, and set the precedent for a bolder course of action – this time directly against the Turkish military – in the Syrian regime’s plan to recapture Idlib.
Despite Turkey, Russia and Iran agreeing to make the province of Idlib a de-escalation zone in September 2018 at the Sochi talks, that agreement has been constantly undermined since the beginning of May this year, when the Assad regime along with Russia launched an all-out air assault on southern Idlib. The province is the last opposition-held stronghold in Syria, and is currently home to over three million inhabitants, many made up of displaced Syrians and refugees now being pushed further north towards the Turkish border by the regime’s assault.