Syrian government forces have made significant progress in their military push against the last major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country, according to state media, in a fierce offensive that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes.
State television said on Sunday that Russian-backed forces “have liberated all villages and small towns west of the city of Aleppo.”
Backed by the Russian, Syrian airstrikes President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have maintained the assault on the Idlib region and the areas of the neighboring provinces of Aleppo and Latakia since December.
The offensive has interrupted a fragile cooperation between Turkey and Russia, which support the opposing parties in the conflict, but have collaborated for what they say is a political solution to the almost nine-year war.
Turkey, which supports several Syrian rebel groups in the northwest, has been outraged since Syrian attacks in Idlib province killed 13 Turkish troops in two weeks. He has asked Russia to stop the attacks, warning that it would use military power to push back Syrian forces unless they withdraw at the end of the month.
The latest developments occur after al-Assad forces expelled rebel fighters from the key M5 road that links Aleppo to the capital, Damascus, and reopened the fastest route between the two largest cities in Syria for the first time. in years.
Meanwhile, Turkey-backed rebels have launched an operation in Idlib to recover areas lost by al-Assad forces. Turkish state news agency Anadolu said Sunday that a convoy of reinforcements of 100 vehicles, including troops, tanks and military vehicles and equipment, had been deployed in Idlib.
So far, Turkey has sent thousands of troops and hundreds of convoys of military equipment to reinforce its observation posts in Idlib, established under a 2018 scale reduction agreement with Russia.
Under that agreement, Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib, and some of them are now in territory controlled by the Syrian government after Damascus gains.
While Syrian government forces continue to press in the northwest, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that he told his Russian counterpart that attacks on Idlib should stop immediately and that a stop should be achieved. lasting fire.
Syria: 800,000 displaced people face desperate conditions in camps
Speaking to journalists during an information session at the Munich Security Conference, Cavusoglu said Turkish and Russian officials will discuss the issue in Moscow on Monday.
The offensive has triggered the biggest wave of displacement in the devastating war in Syria, with more than 800,000 people fleeing to the Turkish border since December, according to the United Nations.
Humanitarian workers have warned that the humanitarian situation in the overcrowded border area has become serious. Nearly one million displaced people live near the border, with internally displaced persons camps already at full capacity.
The UN warned of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe.”
Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot absorb more.
Al Jazeera and news agencies