Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Wednesday that Turkish military intelligence indicates that only 2 of the 57 Russian airstrikes in Syria so far have actually hit the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The other 55 have hit other enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The moderate Syrian opposition right now in the north is almost the only force against ISIS on this side of the Jarablus corridor. … If (the Syrian regime) weakens the opposition, it will strengthen ISIS,” he claimed.
He claimed Turkish military intelligence passed on the information to him.
Davutoğlu also told the media that the government “is ready to speak with Russia, Iran and every other country on a political solution.” However, the Russian and Iranian governments back Assad and want him to be part of the solution against ISIS. The rest of the world, including the U.S., believes Assad is part of the problem and needs to leave office.
Russian jets violated NATO-member Turkey’s airspace twice over the weekend. Russia Today reported that the first incident occurred because of bad weather. Ironically, the excuse came just as a weather forecaster on Rossiya 24 informed her audience the weather in Syria was currently ideal for an airstrike campaign.
“Even if it’s a flying bird, whoever violates Turkish airspace will be subject to the necessary actions,” said Davutoğlu. “Turkey’s rules of engagement are valid for Syria’s, Russia’s or another country’s warplanes.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Russia the country will “lose Turkey” as an ally if violations continue.
Even though Turkey is ready to speak with Russia, Davutoğlu again reminded the Kremlin that the government is serious about its security.
“We will not compromise in any way our border security and our airspace security,” he declared. “We do not want any tension with Russia, but as I said, awaiting Russia to pay attention to Turkey’s airspace, borders and interests in Syria is our most natural neighborhood right.”
NATO and Turkey rejected excuses the Russian government threw at them to explain the airspace violations.
“The crisis in Syria is not a Turkish-Russian crisis and must not be. … We don’t want this to turn into a Russia-NATO crisis,” he said, adding, “If there’s going to be a fight against Daesh, let’s do it together.”
On Wednesday morning, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russia has expanded its campaign in Syria, launching missiles at targets from the Caspian Sea. Shoigu told the audience that four ships have launched 26 rockets so far. He claimed the missiles destroyed “all 11 intended targets” and were not “targeted at civilian areas.” Russia needed approval from Iran and Iraq to launch the attack since the missiles traveled through their airspace.
At the same time, Syrian forces fought back against rebels in central Syria. Those on the ground informed media outlets that Russian jets bombed villages and towns “held by the opposition in Hama’s countryside” as Syrian troops attacked on the ground. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the Russians hit “targets in the province of Idlib.” Radical Islamic group Jaysh al-Fateh, who has links to al-Qaeda, is prominent in the province.