A second round of Turkish-Russian talks on Idlib conflict has ended once again without any conclusive deal, the Russian foreign ministry said following a meeting between the two sides in Moscow on Tuesday.
Both parties to the talks reiterated their commitment to existing agreements aimed at reducing tension in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held northwestern province.
However, Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the talks were “not satisfactory,” and Turkey would continue deploying more troops to the region and retaliate against attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime forces.
“We will continue the deployment and fortification of troops in the area to ensure the safety of the region and the civilians there,” Kalin told reporters in Ankara.
Similarly, on the same day, Russia-backed Syrian forces hit hospitals and refugee camps in northwest Syria, killing about 300 civilians, according to the United Nations (UN).
Tuesday’s statement by the Russian ministry also said Idlib’s long-term security was only possible with Syria’s sovereignty and territorial independence, without mentioning any pull-back of the regime forces from the region, a Turkish demand repeated many times before.
Previously, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had given an ultimatum to the regime to withdraw from territories where Ankara holds military observation posts by the end of the month.
However, later on Saturday, Erdogan appeared to move the date forward, saying Turkey would “handle it” before the end of the month if there was no pull-back.
According to previous deals with Russia, Turkey set up twelve military outposts, some of which have been surrounded by Syrian regime forces.
Over the past three weeks, thirteen Turkish troops were killed by the regime attacks on those posts through which Turkey is obliged to neutralize rebel militants there.
As Turkey has; instead, backed opposition fighters trying to stop the Syrian offensive, the Russia-Iran-backed Syrian forces have been pressing an assault against the last rebel stronghold since April 2019, stepping up their attacks in December.
Since the past two weeks, Ankara has been reinforcing its outposts in the de-escalation zone with more than 2100 military vehicles and 7000 troops, according to the war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The only issue agreed on by the two countries on Tuesday is the restart of joint patrols near the border that had been halted since October, a Russian defense ministry official told Reuters.
The onslaught of al-Assad’s troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, has lead to the “biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century”, displacing 900,000 people in northwest Syria since December 1, the United Nations (UN) said on Monday.
“Civilians fleeing the fighting are being squeezed into areas without safe shelter that are shrinking in size by the hour. And still, they are bombed. They simply have nowhere to go,” Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, said.
There is a serious risk of disease outbreaks as the continuing attacks destroyed basic infrastructures, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
Relief agencies are unable as around one million civilians, most of them women and children, had fled toward the Turkish border in freezing temperatures.
Rupert Colville, the UN human rights spokesman, accused Syria and Russia of deliberately targeting civilians and protected buildings, saying, “the sheer quantity of attacks on hospitals, medical facilities, and schools would suggest they cannot all be accidental.”
In the past four days alone, more than 40,000 have been uprooted from western Aleppo province, the most populated of the country, where dozens of towns have fallen under full control of the Syrian regime, David Swanson, a UN spokesman, said on Monday.