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Syria violence escalates following Russia airstrike on Turkey-backed rebel fighters

The Monday airstrike broke a months-long ceasefire, and prompted both condemnation and speculation.

Updated: October 28, 2020 - 11:29pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Violence in northern Syria intensified this week following a Russian airstrike against Turkish-backed fighters in Idlib province, a London-based war monitoring group said.

Russian warplanes on Monday killed 78 and wounded 90, prompting counterstrikes in the multi-factioned region, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Monday airstrike broke a months-long ceasefire, and prompted condemnation from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Russia's attack targeting the Syrian National Army forces training center is a sign that a lasting peace and calm is not wanted in the region," Erdogan said Wednesday.

The United States decried the assault, casting it as among aggressive actions overall by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters.

"By continuing their quest for a military victory, the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are threatening the stability of the surrounding region," U.S. special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said in a statement, according to Turkish media. "We are very concerned by this dangerous escalation by pro-regime forces and apparent violation of the March 5 Idlib cease-fire agreement."

Considered to be one of the world's most complex conflicts, the civil war in Syria involves multiple factions that are backed in various combinations by outside nations — while remnants of ISIS endure.

In the civil war, Russia supports Syrian government forces, while Turkey back the rebels who oppose them. 

Following the Monday airstrike, the leaders of Russia and Turkey spoke by telephone at Turkey's behest, according to Moscow.

"Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the initiative of the Turkish side," the Kremlin said in a Tuesday statement.

While not mentioning the airstrike, the Kremlin statement addressed the situation in Idlib.  

"The two presidents discussed in detail interaction on the Syrian track, stressing the importance of cooperation in implementing the existing agreements on stabilising Idlib and the east bank of the Euphrates," the Kremlin said.

The Monday airstrike prompted speculation in Turkey that Putin launched the attack to send Erdogan a message regarding another conflict wherein they are at odds, the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The international Small Group on Syria last week urged a political resolution to the crisis in Syria. Such a solution is "the only way to bring a sustainable peace, stability, and security to the Syrian people," wrote the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

"There is no military solution that will bring peace, security, and stability to Syria," the ministers wrote.


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