Russia accuses Turkey of helping foreign fighters enter Libya
Russia has accused Turkey of helping foreign fighters cross into Libya, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan admitted that Ankara sent Syrian rebels to the North African country. Bogdanov added that Moscow did not see evidence that Libya’s warring factions were prepared to implement military and political decisions reached at a conference in Berlin on Jan. 19.
Duvar English - Reuters
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Feb. 26 accused Turkey of helping foreign fighters cross into Libya, the Interfax news agency reported.Syrian army's offensive in Idlib 'heightens' risk of conflict with Turkey, says Pompeo
Bogdanov added that Moscow did not see evidence that Libya’s warring factions were prepared to implement military and political decisions reached at a conference in Berlin on Jan. 19.
Turkey deployed troops to the North African country to support the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in fending off an offensive against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.
In addition to Turkish soldiers, Ankara also deployed Syrian rebels to the war-torn country.
Turkey and Russia are on the opposing sides in Syria, with Moscow being a staunch backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Ankara supports rebels looking to oust him.US 'stands by' Turkey after deadly attacks in Idlib
Bogdanov also said that it expects positive results from talks with Turkey on Syria's Idlib province.
Also on Feb. 26, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Turkey plans to push Syrian government forces away from its military observation posts in Idlib region this week, despite continued advances by Damascus's Russian-backed military.
Nearly a million Syrians have been displaced in the last three months by fighting between Turkish-backed rebels and Syrian forces trying to recapture the last major insurgent-held region in Syria after nine years of war.
Ankara has sent thousands of troops and truckloads of equipment into the region, in Syria's northwest corner bordering Turkey, to support the rebels and Erdoğan has vowed to push back Syrian forces.Russia says Turkey deploying kilometer-long convoys to Idlib
"We are planning to liberate our observation posts from the surrounding [Syrian government forces] by the end of this month, one way or another," Erdoğan told his party's lawmakers in a speech.
But Assad's forces made fresh gains in southern Idlib province where they took a number of villages on Feb. 26, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, and a military news outlet run by Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
The pro-government forces' immediate objective is to reach the town of Kafar Aweed, the capture of which would force rebels to withdraw from a wider tract of territory including their last remaining foothold in Hama province, Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said.
The Syrian army said it had seized numerous villages and towns in the last few days in the south of Idlib province, describing the captured territory as an important crossroads between rebel-held territories.Trump praises Erdoğan for 'trying to avoid tragedy' in Idlib
Erdoğan first demanded on Feb. 5 that Assad's forces pull back behind a line of Turkish observation posts by end-February, or Turkey would drive them back.
Turkey set up 12 observation posts up around a "de-escalation zone" in Idlib under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, but several now find themselves behind Syrian government front lines.
Syrian insurgents backed by the Turkish military seized the town of Nairab in Idlib this week, according to rebel and Turkish sources, the first area to be taken back from advancing Syrian government forces.
Ankara is increasingly concerned about the build-up of displaced people south of its frontier with Syria. Turkey, which has already taken in 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot handle another influx and has closed the border.Erdoğan says 'several' Turkish soldiers killed in Libya, confirms sending Syrian rebels to country
Syrian government forces are advancing closer to the camps for uprooted people near the Turkish border, where the migrants fear being engulfed in the fighting.
Turkish and Russian officials were due to hold a third round of talks in Ankara on Feb. 26 aimed at reducing tensions in the region. Two previous rounds in Ankara and Moscow have failed to yield any tangible progress.
A Turkish official was not optimistic.
"At the moment, solely military diplomacy is being carried out and it is not possible to solve the problem on the ground like this," the Turkish official told Reuters.
He said clear results were unlikely until a planned Turkey-Russia-Iran summit on March 6. A summit a day earlier between Russia, Turkey, France and Germany had been proposed, but Moscow has not sounded receptive to the idea.
Erdogan said on Feb. 26 that he hoped the issue of using the air space over Idlib will be resolved soon.
Russia controls the region's air space and has been bombing Turkish-supported rebels on a daily basis in support of the offensive by Syrian government forces.