Russia is snapping at world powers that target or disrupt the operations of armed forces in Syria, amid efforts from Damascus to retain the lost control that is met with great tension at home, as well as abroad.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters Wednesday that Turkey is “disregarding its commitments” to a ceasefire deal designed to ease tensions between the Syrian military and opposition groups in northwestern Idlib province, the last area of the country under the control of rebels and jihadis. As Syrian troops pressed closer into Idlib, a series of deadly clashes have erupted between them and Turkish forces deployed to observation posts there, Newsweek reported.
As per the September 2018 agreement with Moscow, Ankara was tasked with facilitating the disarmament and withdrawal of jihadi forces such as the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham coalition, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Syrian and Russian forces of targeting civilians in its air raids.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied this in a statement Wednesday, arguing that “these are strikes against terrorists and not against civilians,” according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. He called on Turkey to adhere to their arrangement.
Despite the latest dispute, both Zakharova and Peskov expressed a desire to continue working with Turkey, an early supporter of rebels and jihadis trying to oust Assad for nearly nine years. The 2011 uprising also received backing from a number of other Middle Eastern and Western nations, including the United States, though assistance fell off amid government gains and the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
Still, a joint Russian-Syrian military statement carried Wednesday by the official Syrian Arab News Agency indicated that advancing Syrian army units in Idlib and parts of Aleppo province seized material left behind by “terrorist organizations, including Western-made equipment and weapons, which attests to the continued support of terrorists from abroad.”
The U.S. has refused to recognize Assad’s rule, accusing the Syrian leader of war crimes, but has largely abandoned efforts to depose him by force. Russia and Syria have continued to call for a total U.S. military withdrawal, however, as tensions between them and the Pentagon worsened in the country’s northeast.