Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Erdogan announces Syria summit as Turkish soldier killed in Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would hold a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on March 5 to discuss the situation in Syria

A Turkish military armoured vehicles that crossed to Syria. Getty
A Turkish military armoured vehicles that crossed to Syria. Getty

One Turkish soldier died on Saturday after shelling by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime on the last rebel holdout of Idlib, the defence ministry said, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would hold a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to discuss the situation.

"One of our heroic comrades was injured as a result of tank fire by the regime on our elements who are in the Idlib region to ensure a ceasefire but fell martyr when he was being taken to a hospital," the ministry said on Twitter. The latest casualty brings the number of Turkish personnel killed in clashes in Idlib this month to 17.

The Turkish military retaliated and destroyed 21 regime targets following "the despicable attack", the ministry added.

"The blood of our martyrs will not be wasted."

The latest incident comes two days after two Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in the Idlib region blamed by Ankara on the regime in Damascus.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib as part of a Turkey-Russia deal, but Ankara's forces have come under attack this month from Syrian regime forces.

President Erdogan on Saturday said he would hold a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on March 5 to discuss the situation in Syria's last rebel enclave of Idlib.

"We will come together on March 5 and discuss these issues," Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech, following a phone call on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his tele-conference with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Turkish leader did not say where the summit would be held but his announcement comes a day after Macron and Merkel called for a four-party Syria summit also involving the Russian leader.

A months-long offensive by Russia-backed Syrian troops against rebels backed by Turkey in northwest Idlib has seen close to one million civilians flee the violence.

The two European Union heavyweights on Friday "expressed their willingness to meet President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan to find a political solution to the crisis," the chancellor's office said.

Russia on Wednesday objected to the UN Security Council adopting a statement that would have called for a ceasefire in Idlib, diplomats said, after a tense closed-door meeting.

Turkey, which has threatened an "imminent" operation in Idlib after its troops have come under intense fire from regime forces, has given Damascus until the end of this month to drive back its army positions.

Syrian regime fire has killed 17 Turkish personnel this month alone, sparking a war of words between Ankara and Moscow, a key Damascus ally.

It comes as the highway that links the Syrian capital with the northern city of Aleppo opened for public use for the first time in nearly eight years after government forces recently captured parts of it that had been held by insurgents, the transportation minister said on Saturday.

The full control of the highway known as the M5 by government forces earlier this month marked one of the biggest prizes for President Bashar Al Assad in the nearly nine-year conflict.

Updated: February 22, 2020 09:29 PM

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