After on Monday there were new unconfirmed reports of several Turkish Army soldiers killed or wounded in a Russian air strike on a Turkish convoy, already tense relations between Moscow and Ankara are at a breaking point.
"Several soldiers from the Turkish Army were reportedly killed or wounded this afternoon following the joint airstrikes launched by the Syrian and Russian air forces in the Idlib Governorate," Beirut-based Al Masdar News reports. "According to pro-opposition media, as many as ten Turkish soldiers were killed or wounded as a result of the joint Russian-Syrian airstrikes near the town of Kansafra."
And British-Syrian journalist Danny Makki, who reports from inside Syria lists "10 Turkish casualties between killed and wounded in the Russian airstrikes today sources suggest, 4 armoured vehicles also purportedly destroyed." However, there's yet to be official confirmation out of Turkey of these new alleged casualties. Ankara did previously confirm at least one soldier killed in fighting on Sunday.
Turkey's Defense Ministry has in total acknowledged 16 of its soldiers killed amid the renewed Syrian-Russian offensive to take back Idlib, which began early December.
These increasingly direct clashes between Syrian-Russian allied forces and Turkish national troops have led to renewed urgent talks announced Monday between Russian and Turkish officials.
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov announced Monday that "Another series of consultations is now being prepared and we hope it will help us reach an agreement on how to ensure that this really becomes a de-escalation zone and terrorists don’t boss around there."
Turkey and Russia patrol together in Kobane. Just 200 kilometres away in Idlib, the Russian Airforce is bombing Turkish troops. https://t.co/IWsQ3gKqaf— Gareth Browne (@BrowneGareth) February 24, 2020
"I hope that the ongoing contacts between our military and the Turkish military, with the participation of diplomats and security services, will end positively, and we will be able to make sure that terrorists do not take over this part of Syria, as, in fact, they should not take over anywhere else," Lavrov added.
The Kremlin is further trying to downplay what Turkish officials are describing as a "crisis" — also given President Erdogan has lately vowed to not allow Idlib to be taken by pro-Assad forces. "Russian-Turkish relations should not be depicted as in crisis even after an escalation in political tensions over Syria's last rebel-held enclave of Idlib, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday," according to TASS news agency.
"Certainly, we would not like to plunge into this gloomy mood and in fact to make extremely negative scenarios, but the week has really happened to be absolutely restless," Peskov commented in a televised interview.
Sixteen Turkish military personnel have been killed in shelling by Syrian government forces over the past two weeks, prompting Turkey to tell Russia to “stand aside” while its forces bombard dozens of Syrian army targets in retaliation.
Moscow has warned Ankara to fulfil pledges made to disarm Islamist fighters it depicts as terrorists. The two sides held talks in the Russian capital last week to help diffuse tensions. — Ahval News
Turkey has sent thousands of troops into Idlib while sealing off the border with the northwest province, also hoping to prevent some one million more refugees from flooding in, adding to already some three million plus refugees Turkey says it's hosting.