Turkey has urged Russia to restrain Syrian government forces in Idlib province following an attack yesterday that left eight troops dead. In response to the attack Turkey launched airstrikes, and artillery barrages against numerous targets around Idlib. Clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces have continued, and there are reports that government forces have surrounded a handful of the twelve Turkish observation posts established in the area as part of the 2017 agreement between Turkey, Iran, and Russia to create a de-escalation zone. The situation has evolved into one of the largest clashes between Syrian and Turkish forces in the war.
The latest action came as Syria intensified its offensive in Idlib which is the last province held by anti-government rebels. This offensive has caused hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians to flee north in search of safety along the Turkish border. Turkey closed its border to prevent additional refugees from crossing.
The developments have made Russia uneasy. It is firmly supporting the Syrian government but also has to consider its close relationship with Turkey, which could be in jeopardy now. Both sides want to avoid a clash, however if the Turks succeed in pushing back the Syrian offensive in Idlib it could potentially harm Russia’s designs for Syria. Both sides will eventually find a way to overcome their differences with regard to Syria, but the future of Turkish-Russian relations has suddenly become less certain and more complex.
As for Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he appears eager for a fight. Recently he’s made a habit of flexing Turkish muscle wherever possible. First it was Libya, and now Syria. Tomorrow it could be the Eastern Mediterranean given how things are going right now.