Turkey has vowed to neutralize radical elements that impede the Russian-Turkish joint patrols in Syria's Idlib, the Russian Defense Ministry said on March 23. The ministry added that the latest joint patrol took place earlier in the day on a shortened route due to safety concerns. Their first joint patrol was also cut short earlier this month due to what Moscow called rebel provocations.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib in a rocket attack by "some radical groups," the Defense Ministry said late on March 19.
Russia and Turkey cut short their first joint patrol in Syria's Idlib on March 15 after rebels and civilians opposed to a ceasefire agreement cut off a main roadway to block its path. Hundreds of civilians and rebels cut off the roadway, rejecting the presence of Russian forces and what they said was an agreement that did not guarantee their re-settlement after being pushed out by violence.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey and Russia have agreed on the details of a ceasefire in Syria's Idlib region. Under the agreement, Turkish and Russian forces will carry out joint patrols along the M4 highway linking Syria's east and west, and establish a security corridor on either side of it. A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara on March 10 to work out details. Akar said there were signs that migration from Idlib towards Turkish borders had stopped after the ceasefire deal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to jointly manage oil fields in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zor region. Erdoğan said Putin was evaluating the offer, which the Turkish president said he made during talks in Moscow last week, adding that he could make the same offer to U.S. President Donald Trump. "Instead of terrorists benefiting here, we would have the opportunity to rebuild Syria from the revenues of this [oil field]," he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on March 7 there had been no violations of the ceasefire in Syria's Idlib, as part of the agreement reached between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 5, while Russia said there have been a few shootings in the region. A day earlier, Putin told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the agreement would stabilize the situation in Idlib.
Syria's war-battered Idlib region was quiet but tense on March 6 as a ceasefire deal between Moscow and Ankara took effect, with residents and opposition forces describing a lull in air raids that have pounded the last rebel-held enclave in Syria. Russia and Turkey made the agreement late on March 5, after six hours of talks in Moscow, to contain a conflict that has displaced nearly a million people in three months in northwest Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that he considers Turkish people to be a brotherly nation for the Syrians. The Syrian leader also said that the feud between Syria and Turkey is "illogical," stressing that Damascus had not attacked Turkey and that both states have common interests.
Two more Turkish soldiers were killed by government forces in northwest Syria, the defense ministry said on March 4. NATO member Turkey has seen 59 troops killed in Idlib since the beginning of February. The latest casualties included six wounded, the defense ministry said, adding it retaliated and struck Syrian targets.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham praised Turkey's efforts in Syria's Idlib. "Very much appreciate what Turkey is doing to stand with the people of Idlib, Syria. It is time for the world, including the United States, to declare a no-fly zone over Idlib before the humanitarian crisis escalates," he said.
Libya's eastern-based government linked to military commander Khalifa Haftar opened an embassy in Syria on March 3 and called for the two countries to unite in their common fight against Turkey-backed militant groups. "Terrorism will kill any Arab country if it's permitted and if the criminal [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is permitted to win this fight," Syria's deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said at a ceremony to open the embassy.
The Turkish army should head to Damascus, put a sack over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's head and deal the final blow to the "bloody and filthy regime" if politics and diplomacy fail, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said on March 3. Bahçeli, who is an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said that Russia and Syria should not test Turkey's patience any longer.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on March 4. Following the meeting, Borrell said he told Erdoğan that the situation at the border with Greece was "unacceptable."
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Russia on March 5 for a one-day trip, the Turkish presidency said on March 2, amid tensions between Ankara and Moscow over escalating clashes with Syrian government forces in Syria's northwestern Idlib region. Erdoğan said that he hopes to achieve a ceasefire in Idlib in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Over 60 intellectuals from Turkey have signed a petition calling for military retreat in Northern Syria and for troops to return home after 36 soldiers were killed in Idlib Feb. 27. Among the intellectuals are academics, authors, journalists and artists.