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Turkish FM urges Russia to halt Syrian gov’t strikes in Idlib: report

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Turkey’s foreign minister on Wednesday urged Russia to halt the Syrian government’s attacks in the war-torn Arab country, a day after airstrikes on rebel-held sectors and the shelling of government-held areas killed at least 17 people, including an entire family, The Associated Press reported.

In his remarks Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu insisted it was Moscow’s responsibility to stop the violence as Russia has been a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the civil war.

The Syrian government has been carrying out an offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country, and the rebel-held parts of nearby Aleppo province. The fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom fled to areas closer to the border with Turkey.

Dozens of fighters have been killed on both sides in recent days as clashes intensified. The fighting comes despite a new cessation of hostilities agreement between Russia and Turkey that went into effect earlier this month. Moscow and Ankara stand on opposing sides of the conflict in Syria.

Russian-led air strikes killed at least 40 people on Tuesday in northwest Syria in a major army assault backed by Iranian militias to clear out rebels that has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing toward the Turkish border, Reuters reported, citing residents and rescuers.

“Russia is the guarantor of the [Syrian] regime,” Çavuşoğlu told a panel at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. “Russia is obliged to stop this aggression.”

“The situation in Idlib is our main focus because the regime has been increasing its aggression,” he added. “Some 400,000 people have already been displaced and moved toward our border.”

The province of Idlib is dominated by al-Qaeda-linked militants but is also home to 3 million civilians. The United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.

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