EghtesadOnline: An Iranian diplomat called on Syria and Turkey to exercise restraint, as tensions rose between the two countries over the situation in Syria’s northwest Idlib region.
"We have sent private messages to our friends in Syria and Turkey, and the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations has also expressed Iran's readiness to help prevent the escalation of the conflict…, on the one hand, and any harm to civilians, on the other," Hamidreza Dehqani, director general for Middle East affairs at the Foreign Ministry, told ISNA.
The flashpoint region, he explained, is overrun by Al-Nusra Front, which has been designated as one of the two terrorist groups in Syria along with the self-styled Islamic State, Financial Tribune reported.
Turkey has allied with some rebels in Idlib opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has boosted its troops, arms and military hardware in the region after 13 of its soldiers were killed by Syrian government forces in just over a week.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said his NATO-member military would strike Russia-backed Syrian forces if another Turkish soldier was hurt, blaming Moscow for targeting civilians.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also urged the two neighbors to engage in dialogue and avoid violence, warning that tensions would only serve terrorists' interests.
"Iran reiterates its readiness to facilitate dialogue among brother neighbors #Turkey & #Syria. Escalation of tensions only serves interests of terrorists and their sponsors. Avoidance of bloodshed and respect for sovereignty & territorial integrity is imperative," he had said on Twitter.
Dehqani highlighted the Sochi agreement signed between Turkey and Russia, noting that both countries need to ensure civilian regions stay clear of military operations.
Although Ankara and Moscow back opposing sides in Syria, they have collaborated on a political solution to the war, including the Idlib demilitarization agreement signed in the Russian city of Sochi to create a buffer zone in the rebel-held governorate.
Most recently, the two countries agreed to implement a ceasefire in Idlib as of Jan. 12 to stem the flow of civilians uprooted by the violence.
Both sides, however, have been accusing one another for violating the agreements.
Russia has censured Turkey for flouting the agreements and of aggravating the situation in Idlib while the Turkish defense minister has said in response that it was sending reinforcements to the region to ensure a ceasefire is maintained, according to a ministry statement.
"Force will be used against those violating the ceasefire … and every measure will be taken," Hulusi Akar said, referring to the Jan. 12 ceasefire Ankara says has been violated by Assad's forces, Reuters reported.
The flare-up of fighting has given rise to some of the most serious confrontations between Ankara and Damascus in the nine-year-old war that, since early December in Idlib alone, has displaced hundreds of thousands.