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Turkish FM calls on Russia to help end Syrian gov’t ‘aggression’

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that Russia should help end the Syrian government’s “aggression” after Turkish and Syrian forces exchanged fire that killed several on both sides in the northwestern province of Idlib, dpa reported.

“The [Syrian] regime needs to stop its aggression as soon as possible. That is the message I shared with Lavrov yesterday,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Ankara, referring to a phone call with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

“We need to do something urgently [with Russia],” Çavuşoğlu said, warning Turkey will retaliate further against any such future attack.

Seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian died in Monday’s shelling by Syrian government forces in the embattled rebel stronghold of Idlib, Çavuşoğlu confirmed. The escalation in Idlib is a “serious test” of the military ties between Russia and Turkey, Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads a Russian parliamentary committee on international affairs, said on Tuesday.

Ankara is still committed to maintaining dialogue with Moscow for a political solution in Syria, Çavuşoğlu said, still charging that Russia needs to first contain Damascus. Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports rebels trying to oust him.

Ankara and Moscow have nonetheless worked out a delicate cooperation to restore calm in the war-torn country. A ceasefire deal for Idlib struck between Moscow and Ankara in January, however, collapsed, leading Syrian army and allied forces to intensify attacks and make gains in the area.

The Astana and Sochi processes “have not come to a complete standstill, but have been hurt and become less important,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to deals in 2017 and 2018 to help end Syria’s conflict.

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