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Syria: escalation after heavy Turkish losses

SYRIA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Friday to try to contain the sudden escalation in north-western Syria, after the death of more than 30 Turkish soldiers in strikes by the regime Damascus, to which Russia is allied.

After suffering its heaviest losses in a single attack since the start of its intervention in Syria in 2016, Turkey has called for the support of the international community, brandishing the threat of a new flow of migrants to Europe.

At a bus station in Istanbul, dozens of people, including Afghans, crowded into buses and taxis bound for the Greek border, where migrants could be seen walking in single file along a road, according to AFP.

On Thursday, at least 33 soldiers died in air strikes attributed by Ankara to the Syrian regime in the Idlib region (northwest of Syria). The Turks retaliated, killing 45 Syrian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Ten Lebanese Hezbollah fighters who fight, according to the SOHR, alongside the forces of the Syrian regime, were killed by Turkish strikes near Saraqeb, it added the same source.

In addition, seven civilians were killed in strikes attributed to the Russian air force, according to the SOHR.

On Friday, a Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded in northern Syria in artillery fire attributed by Ankara to government forces. Turkey “continues to retaliate against regime targets,” said the defense ministry.

This feverish fever is likely to worsen the already critical humanitarian situation in Idlib, where nearly a million people have been displaced in recent months by the offensive led there since December Damascus.

Faced with this volatile situation, the UN, whose Security Council was to meet urgently on Friday, called for an immediate cease-fire and the European Union expressed concern at “the risk of military confrontation major international “in Syria.

In addition, Erdogan and US President Donald Trump agreed during a telephone interview to “take immediate additional steps to avert a great humanitarian tragedy” in Idlib, according to Ankara.

“The two leaders agreed that the Syrian regime, Russia and the Iranian regime must stop their offensive before other civilians are killed and displaced,” the White House said in a statement.

– Erdogan-Putin meeting –

In the morning, MM. Erdogan and Putin had a telephone conversation in which they expressed “serious concern” over the situation in Idlib, the Kremlin announced, adding that the two leaders may meet in Moscow next week.

The clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces have widened a gap between Turkey and Russia, which have strengthened their cooperation since 2016 in several areas, such as the Syrian conflict, defense and energy.

On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Turkish soldiers killed on Thursday had been hit because they were among “fighting units of terrorist groups”, a version firmly denied by Ankara.

Wanting to be more soothing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered his “condolences” and said that Moscow was doing “everything to ensure the safety of the Turkish soldiers” deployed in Syria.

New discussions between Turkish and Russian officials on Idlib took place in Ankara on Friday.

NATO members, including Turkey, only expressed their solidarity during an emergency meeting on Friday.

Ankara has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Idleb to ground Syrian regime and Moscow planes to the ground, a request that is unlikely to succeed.

– Closed borders –

In an apparent attempt to pressure the European Union to seek more support, Turkey said it would no longer stop migrants seeking to travel to Europe from its territory, raising the specter of the serious crisis migration in 2015.

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