Attacks by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militants in Idlib will be crushed, Turkey has been notified about that, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
“Jointly with our Turkish colleagues, in order to stop regular violations by these terrorists of the cessation of hostilities regime, although it does not extend to them, we have made it clear that if they carry out attacks from this zone, they will be severely suppressed. Throughout this year, these provocations have not stopped", Lavrov said at a press conference, held after his talks with Ghanaian counterpart, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS or the "Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant”) is an alliance of militant groups active in Syria. The group, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra* is a part of this broader alliance.
He added that in all cases, Turkish colleagues were warned that "we would respond, and this practice can't stop, because the agreement on Idlib does not provide for the extension of the ceasefire regime to terrorists".
"The developing situation has emerged due to the fact that extremists do not cease their attempts to hit from there [Idlib's areas controlled by militants and the opposition] targets located in other territories of the Syrian Arab Republic. Our military certainly maintains constant contact. These days, they are discussing the current situation", Lavrov stated.
The minister stressed that Russia was closely following the situation in Idlib.
Syrian pro-government newspaper al Watan earlier reported that the Syrian Army had established control over the entire city of Khan Sheikhoun. The army is now fully in control of the city and the Damascus-Aleppo highway.
The Syrian government forces renewed their activities in the northwest of the country due to the militants’ non-compliance with the agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey.
Attack on Military Convoy in Syria's Idlib
The statement comes after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier in the day that Turkey was in contact with Russia over the Syrian Air Force's recent attack on a Turkish military convoy in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
"We must ensure a ceasefire in Idlib. Our convoy has suffered an attack recently. We contacted Russia immediately. Contacts continue. If the need arises, I will talk with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov. Our convoy's mission is to assist the operation of the observatory point, operating under the Astana agreements", Cavusoglu told reporters.
The minister stressed that it was necessary to focus on a political settlement and transition period in Syria.
"We will discuss this at upcoming meetings with the Russian and Iranian leaders ... It is difficult to ensure a political settlement without the participation of the guarantor states", Cavusoglu added.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said a day earlier that Turkish armoured vehicles had crossed Syria's border and were moving toward Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel stronghold in Idlib. The Turkish Defence Ministry accused the Syrian Air Force later on 19 August of conducting an airstrike against the Turkish military convoy, adding that three civilians had been killed and 12 more had sustained injuries as a result of this attack.
*Al-Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra, known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is a terrorist group banned in Russia