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Turkey’s message to Tehran and Moscow

Jan 11,2018 - Last updated at Jan 11,2018

The escalation of the fighting between Syrian government troops openly aided and abetted by Russia and Iran on one hand and opposition militias deployed in the Idlib province — the only major swath of territory still in the hands of the opposition — is sparking a Turkish outcry for fear that the onslaught on opposition risks destroying the very foundation of the "de- escalation zone" arrangement in the province. 

Russia, Iran and Turkey are supposed to be the guarantors of last year's accord but Moscow and Tehran appear bent on reneging on their role to de-escalate fighting in the area, home to nearly 2 million Syrians, to serve their own agenda. 

Damascus has been scoring military successes against the rebel groups in the area thanks to Russian air support and active involvement of Iran-backed militias. Russia is irked in part by the recent drone attacks on its bases in Tartus and Latakia which it alleged have been launched from the Idlib region. Iran has its own strategic goals in "finishing off" what remains from the opposition forces in Idlib. 

It will be remembered that most of the opposition forces have been relocated to Idlib after being forced to withdraw from other parts of the  country. The active involvement of both Moscow and Tehran in the fighting is causing heavy casualties among the civilian population in Idlib and triggering waves of refugees to neighbouring Turkey. 

Turkey is in effect calling on Moscow and Tehran to clarify their true objectives in Idlib, either they are guarantors of de-escalation or they are aiming to weaken the opposition to make them amenable to attending the Russian sponsored peace talks in Sochi. 

Ankara has therefore called on Russia and Iran, and rightly so, to cease and desist from their active and open aggression and military involvement in the fighting in the Idlib province and summoned their ambassadors in Ankara for this purpose. 

Ankara is doing the right thing by raising the stakes over the fighting in Idlib. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Moscow and Tehran that they must fulfill their duties under the de-escalation zone accord struck with Ankara last year. 

The Turkish foreign minister noted that Damascus could not have made big military advances without the active support of Russia and Iran. "Iran and Russia," warned Cavusoglu, "need to carry out their responsibilities". 

"If you are guarantors [of de-escalation] which you are, stop the regime," said the Turkish foreign minister in an interview with Anadolu news agency aired by the Turkish TV channels. 

The Turkish top diplomat was even more blunt when he cautioned Moscow that "if its intervention is to make some unwilling opposition groups go to Sochi, it will backfire!" 

 

Turkey needs to be commended for sending the right message to Moscow and Tehran. Some powers need to stand up to both capitals not only to save the de-escalation zone accord but also to call a spade a spade and save innocent lives. 

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