No More ‘Excuses’: Turkey Tells Russia to Curb Syrian Forces

(Bloomberg) -- Russia must do more to rein in Syrian government forces in the Idlib region and not hide behind excuses, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

Turkey retaliated with warplanes and artillery after Syrian troops killed seven Turkish soldiers and a civilian in the province, where the government, backed by the Russian air force, is trying to vanquish onetime al-Qaeda affiliates and Turkey-backed rebels.

“We don’t accept the excuse that ‘we can’t fully control the regime,’” from Russia, Cavusoglu said in Ankara.

“The Astana and Sochi processes are not fully erased but they are being harmed,” he said in reference to accords struck by Turkey, Russia and Iran in recent years to curtail fighting in northern Syria. “There are important responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of Russia.”

Russia and Turkey have stepped up their cooperation in the Syrian conflict while finding themselves on opposite sides of other Middle Eastern conflicts, such as the one in Libya. Cavusoglu said he discussed events in Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

“We want to reach a permanent cease-fire and give an impetus to the work on a new constitution for a political solution,” Cavusoglu said.

He warned that Turkey is determined to prevent a new wave refugees from Idlib heading toward Turkey, which is already home to about 4 million Syrians who have fled years of war. Turkey is planning to build houses for the new refugees within Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.

“If another 1 to 2 million refugees arrive, that would a big problem for Turkey,” Cavusoglu said. “We’re not going to hesitate to take measures to solve this problem at its root.”

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