Assad regime supporters Russia and Iran must halt the regime's aggression, especially in the embattled cease-fire zone of Idlib, said Turkey’s foreign minister on Tuesday.
"Despite declaring a cease-fire, the regime again stepped up its aggression on Jan. 12, especially with the air support provided by those who support the regime," said Mevlut Cavusoglu, referring to a further cease-fire declared in Idlib, northwestern Syria, last month.
His remarks, in a joint press conference with his Montenegrin counterpart Srdjan Darmanovic in the capital Podgorica, came one day after five Turkish troops were martyred and five wounded in an attack by Assad regime forces.
The Turkish troops are in Idlib as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.
Stressing how critical the current situation in Idlib is, Cavusoglu said: "The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office has announced that 400 civilians have died since Dec. 1, and 700,000 people fled their homes in the past two months,"
Half of these people are children, struggling to survive under difficult conditions in the middle of winter, he added.
"With the support of Germany, we are trying to provide support by building houses in Idlib. But if this aggression continues, millions of people will come, making it will difficult to achieve that. Therefore, this [aggression] should be stopped. Particularly Russia here has an important role. We have always adhered to the agreements we have signed. There are problems here, especially because the regime believes in military solutions. But the regime's guarantors, Russia and Iran, must stop it," said Cavusoglu.
Turkey-Russia cooperation had significant results up until the regime started its attacks in Idlib again, killing civilians and attacking Turkish soldiers, which started to hurt this partnership, he emphasized.
"The [Turkish] president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will talk on the phone. We want to get a result from these talks.
"We have five martyrs again and we will ask for the account of this. No matter who is targeting our soldiers, we have done what is necessary and will continue to do so," he added.
Cavusoglu also said: "The important thing is that in Idlib, these attacks had stopped, a permanent cease-fire had been established, a political solution brought to Syria. We have taken many important steps such as the constitutional committee, but now there is an aggression that erodes them all, beginning to destroy, and there is brutal aggression. We are talking about attacks on people in hospitals and schools. We will do whatever it takes to stop this."
Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Since then, however, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and the new one that came into effect on Jan. 12.
Cavusoglu arrived in Montenegro on Monday for a two-day official visit.
He earlier met separately with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, Parliament Speaker Ivan Brajovic, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, and Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic.
Cavusoglu said further development of economic relations highlighted his visit and that Turkey aims to develop cooperation with Montenegro in the fields of education, culture, and tourism as well as the economy.
"Montenegro is an important country of the Balkans and Europe. We have strongly supported Montenegro's NATO membership. We believe that Montenegro deserves membership in the EU as soon as possible," he stressed.
Following the meeting, Cavusoglu and Darmanovic inked new bilateral deals in areas such as providing consular assistance to Montenegrin citizens and income for family members of diplomatic staffers.
The agreement allows Turkish diplomatic representatives to provide consulate services to Montenegrin citizens in countries where Montenegro does not have a diplomatic mission.
By Talha Ozturk in Belgrade, Serbia