Russia strikes deal with Turkey on Syria’s Idlib, says Putin
On the sidelines of Russia’s air show MAKS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin presented an image of unity on Tuesday, despite their countries’ conflicting interests in Syria. Erdogan criticized the Syrian government for its recent campaign to recapture Idlib from rebel forces, calling it “unacceptable that the regime rains death on civilians from air and land, under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”
Both countries previously established a demilitarized zone in the province, but a recent offensive by the Syrian army with air support from Russia has pushed back jihadi forces in the province and resulted in a Turkish military post being encircled. Putin mentioned that militants in Idlib had continued to carry out terrorist attacks on Syrian government forces. The Russian leader said that “the de-escalation zone must not serve as a refuge for militants, let alone a bridgehead for new attacks,” but added that his government and that of Turkey had agreed on “joint steps” to normalize the situation.
Erdogan’s attendance at MAKS sends a message to Washington and NATO, because his regime has defied the US government and other fellow NATO members by purchasing a Russian S-400 missile defense system. In response, the US has put its planned sale of US F-35 fighter jets to Turkey on hold because it fears the use of a Russian missile-defense system by a NATO ally may undermine the security of F-35 fighter jets.