Turkey criticises Russia for attack on rebels in Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised Russia for conducting an airstrike that killed dozens of Turkey-backed rebels in northwestern Idlib province of Syria.

“Russia’s attack on the training center of the Syrian National Army forces in the Idlib region shows it does not want lasting peace in the region,” Erdogan said addressing his lawmakers at the parliament on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

At least 78 rebels were killed overnight by a Russian airstrike against an opposition military camp in Idlib, a war monitor reported on Monday.

About 90 others were wounded by the Russian airstrike which targeted the camp of a Turkey-backed rebel group in the western countryside of Idlib, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Erdogan also said Turkey had the legitimate right to act once again if militants are not cleared along its border with Syria, referring to Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey sees the YPG group as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish army launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019, and Operation Spring Shield in 2020 in northern Syria in order to create a YPG-free zone along its border within the neighbouring country.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the EU, has been rebelling against the Turkish government for over 30 years, which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people.