Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on Turkey to strictly abide by the Sochi agreement on Idlib. In an interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian diplomat said that Ankara failed to deliver on a number of key obligations to ease the situation in the province.
"We are receiving information about the deployment of Turkish troops in the Idlib zone, about the beginning of their clashes with units of the Syrian army. Our military is monitoring this situation. According to our information, which has already been reported by the General Staff, the Turkish military advanced to certain sites inside the Idlib de-escalation zone, without warning us about these movements, and, therefore, we could not inform the Syrian army about this. The attacks were conducted (by the Syrian army) and the Turkish side has threatened to retaliate. This is all very sad," the Russian Foreign Minister said.
Lavrov added that hundreds of militants are moving from the Idlib de-escalation zone to Libya to participate in offensives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a military memorandum in the Russian city of Sochi in October that created an 18-mile safe zone on the Syria-Turkish border and enforced regular military police patrols to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from northern Syria.
Erdogan vows no escalation with Russia
Turkey is not seeking to escalate tensions with Russia over the situation in Syria's Idlib, President Erdogan said on Tuesday. At the same time, the Turkish president added that Ankara will still prevent the Syrian government forces from gaining ground in the northwestern province.
Speaking on a flight after his talks with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Erdogan said that Turkey and Russia will discuss the existing state of affairs "without anger", adding that he intends to call President Putin later in the day.
"We do not intend to enter into serious conflict with Russia at this stage. We have strategic projects, such as TurkStream and the Akkuyu power plant and we will not abandon the S-400 air defense system.... We will discuss everything. I may call Putin on Tuesday", Erdogan said, as quoted by the Sabah news outlet.
Erdogan added that Turkey did not intend to leave its observation posts in Syria's Idlib province and would strengthen them instead.
"Our observation posts play a vital role in Idlib and will remain there. We are doing the necessary work to strengthen them. We will not allow a new war and a new wave of refugees to arise, and we have notified the Russian side about this", Erdogan told Turkish reporters.
The Turkish Armed Forces have set up and maintained 12 observation posts within militant-held territories in the Idlib province.
Situation in Syria's Idlib
Tensions in northwestern Syria spiked on Tuesday after the Turkish Defence Ministry stated that six Turkish servicemen had been killed in an attack by Syrian government forces in Idlib.
Soon after the attack, President Erdogan pledged to retaliate. In late January, the Turkish president accused Syrian government forces of breaching the Russia-Turkey deal on the demilitarised zone in Idlib.
The Syrian army has been conducting an offensive in Idlib province in a bid to retake areas of the de-escalation zone held by terrorist groups.
In September 2018, Moscow and Ankara agreed to set up a demilitarised zone along the contact line between the armed opposition and government forces in Idlib. However, the province still remains a bastion of various terrorist groups.