Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on March 5 amid escalating tensions over the Syrian conflict. The Turkish presidency, in a statement, confirmed that Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Russia on Thursday after killing 19 Syrian soldiers in a drone strike.
Last week, Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike launched by Syrian regime forces and Ankara retaliated by “neutralising” 309 Syrian troops, said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on February 28. The former chief of the Turkish General Staff claimed that Turkey destroyed five Syrian military helicopter, 23 tanks, 23 howitzers, and two air defence systems.
Akar said that the attack on Turkish forces was launched despite the fact that Ankara had shared the coordinates of its troops with Kremlin. The Defence Minister alleged that Syria continued strikes against Turkish forces and targeted ambulances even after the warnings. Akar dismissed the claims of the presence of Syrian militants saying they didn’t have any other armed groups in the premises.
Russian Defence Ministry contradicted with the claims made by Turkey saying the Turkish troops were not supposed to be in the area as per the coordinates shared with Russia’s Reconciliation Center in Syria. The Ministry, in the counterclaim, said that the Turkish troops came under fire because they were deployed among “terrorist battle formations”.
Russia and Turkey have been accusing each other of the ceasefire violations and offensive in the Idlib province. But the situation in northwestern Syria escalated following direct conflict between the Turkish forces and Syrian troops backed by Russia.
On March 1, Erdogan said that Turkey will never back down on its “rightful fight” and will not forget any “treason”. Taking to Twitter, the Turkish President said that they will overcome every hardship and teach a “historic lesson” to those who think they can corner Turkey.
“We act with the awareness that we will have to pay a much heavier price if we shy away from the fight and don’t defend our unity and solidarity in this region, which had endured invasions and oppression throughout history,” tweeted Erdogan.
(With agency inputs)