1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Turkey threatens 'imminent' offensive in Syria's Idlib

February 19, 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned of an "imminent" military operation in Idlib amid ceasefire talks. The threat follows recent fatal clashes. Russia's government has urged restraint.

Rebel fighters fire a missile towards Syrian government positions in Idlib
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/G. Alsayed

Russia and Turkey failed to reach an agreement during talks in Moscow aimed at taking steps to ease violent unrest in the Syrian province of Idlib, Russia's top diplomat said on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Syrian government forces, which have been undertaking an offensive in Idlib, were upholding previous agreements on the region but also reacting to provocations. Militant attacks on Syrian and Russian forces in Idlib were continuing, he said.

Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, which is nearing its ninth year, with Moscow supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and Ankara backing some rebel groups. 

Read moreA summary of critical events in Syria's civil war 

"We unfortunately failed to reach the desired result in our talks with Russia," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "Although the talks will continue, it is true that we are very far from meeting our demands at the table."

The failure to reach an agreement comes amid heightened tensions. Deadly clashes earlier this month left 13 Turkish troops dead in Idlib, a northwestern province that borders Turkey.

Erdogan: Attack 'imminent'

On Wednesday, the Turkish leader threatened to launch a military operation in the province by the end of February to force a retreat should Syria's government fail to withdraw troops posted behind Turkish military positions.

"An operation in Idlib is imminent ... We are counting down, we are making our final warnings," Erdogan told lawmakers in Turkey's parliament. 

Erdogan had previously warned that Turkey would "strike everywhere" if Damascus did not pull back. 

On Wednesday, Russia's government warned Turkey against attacking Syrian forces. "If we are talking about an operation against the legitimate authorities of the Syrian Republic and armed forces of the Syrian Republic, this would of course be the worst scenario," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

In 2018, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib, allowing both sides to set up military observation posts. Both sides have accused each other of sidestepping the agreement. 

Read moreThe Syrian region abandoned by the world 

Aleppo airport reopens 

The talks came on the heels of Assad's Russian-backed government making significant gains in the northwest of the country. Its forces consolidated control over Aleppo province and seized the last segments of the strategic M5 highway, which links Aleppo to Damascus.

In a symbolic message from Assad's government, a flight carrying Syrian officials and and journalists flew from Damascus to Aleppo, marking the resumption of internal flights between Syria's two largest cities for the first time since 2012.

Government forces have been on the offensive to recapture both Aleppo and Idlib in the northwest, the last rebel-held areas in the country.

Every day, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up for the newsletter here.

lc/stb (Reuters, AFP, AP)