Reuters / Duvar English
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said that he had asked President Vladimir Putin for Russia to step aside in Syria and leave Turkey to deal with Syrian government forces alone, after at least 36 Turkish soldiers were killed this week.
Erdoğan told Putin in a phone call to stand aside and let Turkey "to do what is necessary" with the Syrian government alone, Erdoğan said to Istanbul deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Feb. 29 at Dolmabahçe Palace.
He said Turkey does not intend to leave Syria right now.
"We did not go there because we were invited by (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad). We went there because we were invited by the people of Syria. We don't intend to leave before the people of Syria, 'okay, this is done," Erdoğan added.
As tensions rose, Russia and Turkey have held three rounds of talks, the first two of which did not yield a ceasefire.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 29 that the two sides agreed in this week's talks to reduce tensions on the ground in Idlib while continuing military action there.
'What are you laughing at, Erdoğan?'
During his speech where he announced the death toll in Idlib had risen to 36, Erdoğan seemed to chuckle while talking about his conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister and Erdoğan's son-in-law is seen laughing with former parliament speaker İsmail Kahraman.
Karaman is seen making a gesture that suggests pocketing money as Erdoğan mentions the money sent to Turkey from Germany for humanitarian relief.
The hashtag "What are you laughing at, Erdoğan?" became a trending topic on Twitter within hours. The number of people who used it neared 100 thousand at 5.30 p.m. Feb. 29.
Cumhurbaşkanı Tayyip Erdoğan, İdlib'de yaşanan saldırının ardından ilk kez çıktığı kameralar karşısında espriler yaptı, güldü.— Evrensel Gazetesi (@evrenselgzt) February 29, 2020
“#negülüyorsunerdoğan” etiketi sosyal medyada TT oldu.https://t.co/QNAvwoa0kv pic.twitter.com/se84QHi9Hv