Top Russian commander to visit Ankara amid US-Turkey Idlib tension

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Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and first Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov (Kremlin Press Center / Handout / Anadolu Agency)

Amid tensions between the US and Turkey over terrorism support in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said the chief of the Russian army’s general staff, Valery Gerasimov, is going to visit Turkey to discuss the situation in Syria’s Idlib region.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, also arrived in Turkey on Tuesday together with a high-ranking political-military delegation upon an official invitation from Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar.

The visits by top generals come at a time of rising tensions between Ankara and Washington over claims of support for terrorism in Syria.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry recently slammed remarks by Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) for claiming there was a link between Turkey and the presence of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria’s Idlib province, where Turkey and Russia agreed to deploy troops as part of a de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia in May.

Turkey is also accusing the US of sending truckloads of military equipment to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey claims is affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Referring to the US support for the YPG, Çavuşoğlu said: “Russia is more empathetic to Turkey’s stance towards the YPG than the US is.”

While the US aid was announced to be for operations against ISIL in Raqqa, the pro-government media claimed that the supplies are for an operation against Syrian areas that were taken under control by the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters during Operation Euphrates Shield between August 2016 and March 2017.

Deputy Prime Minister and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ on Aug. 15 said Turkey is ready for all scenarios in Syria: “All troops are on the alert. We will not allow a fait accompli.”

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