The Russian military has refuted the Turkish military's claims about the deaths of dozens of Syrian troops in Idlib, saying that Turkey's "irresponsible statements" can only lead to an escalation of the situation and to hastily-made decisions.
"The [Russian] Center for the Reconcilliation of the warring parties draws attention to the responsibility of officials from the Turkish ministry of defence for providing false information to the country's leadership in the Idlib de-escalation zone," the MoD-affiliated Center said in a statement Friday.
"Such irresponsible statements only contribute to the escalation of the situation and to the taking of hasty decisions which do not meet the mutual interests of Russia and Turkey," the Centre warned.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish military reported on the 'neutralization' of 63 Syrian troops. Before that, Ankara reported on the elimination of 101 personnel in attacks on 115 Syrian Army targets in response to Monday's attack on a Turkish observation post in Idlib which killed several Turkish troops.
"Such statements about the 'shelling' of Syrian government forces by units of the Turkish Armed Forces, and moreover, about the deaths of Syrian troops as a result, are untrue," the Centre stressed.
Also on Friday, Turkey's military reported that it had carried out a series of airstrikes against Kurdish-governed areas in northern Iraq, killing six members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, a Turkish-Kurdish militia group which has been waging a low-intensity guerilla war with Ankara for several decades. Those attacks were said to have taken place in the mountainous area of Qandil.
Repeated Ceasefire Violations
Tensions in northern Syria began escalating earlier this month, after eight Turkish nationals were killed by Syrian forces in an artillery strike on a Turkish observation post in militant-held Idlib province. The Syrian Army began a military operation in Idlib in late 2019 after militants in the region repeatedly violated a ceasefire brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey in 2017 and claimed the lives of dozens of Syrian troops.
Damascus has vowed to continue fighting terrorist groups in Idlib and throughout the country notwithstanding recent Turkish threats of intervention, and has accused the Turkish government of supporting, arming and training terrorist groups operating in the region.
On Tuesday, a Syrian Army helicopter was shot down over Idlib by Turkish-backed militants believed to be allied to the Nusra Front.* On Friday, Nusra* militants reportedly shot down another helicopter in neighbouring Aleppo province.
Apart from the Syrian Kurdish-controlled area in northeastern Syria, Idlib remains the last major province outside of Damascus's control. In addition to the tens of thousands of militants believed to be concentrated in the region, Idlib is home to hundreds of thousands of civilians. Syrian forces have accused the terrorists of using civilians as human shields, while Ankara has voiced concerns over the prospect of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into southern Turkey amid ongoing military operations in the region.
On Thursday, amid deteriorating relations between Damascus and Ankara, Syria's parliament unanimously passed a motion recognizing the 1915-1923 ethnic cleansing and massacre of Armenians, Syrians and Assyrians by the Ottoman Empire. Turkey broadly condemned the gesture and accused Syria of "hypocrisy."
* An al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.