Ankara (AFP) – Turkey on Friday condemned regime attacks on rebel-held towns in southern Syria as “inhuman”, calling on Damascus’ allies to stop the offensive that has killed dozens of civilians.
With Russia’s help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army has battered Daraa province for over a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs.
Thursday was the bloodiest day yet after dozens of strikes identified as Russian killed 25 civilians, mostly in the town of Al-Mseifra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “Russia, Iran and the US were responsible for the (regime’s) violations”, state news agency Anadolu reported.
“We strongly condemn these inhuman attacks” by the regime on “innocent” people, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
Turkey and Russia have stood on the opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, with Ankara repeatedly calling for Assad’s ouster, while Moscow has intervened militarily to prop up the regime since 2015.
But alongside Assad’s other main ally Iran, Russia and Turkey have been working to try to find a political solution in Syria through peace talks based in the Kazakh capital Astana.
“These attacks hinder the efforts in Astana and (the UN-supported process in) Geneva to reduce violence on the ground and to find a political solution for the crisis,” Aksoy added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who formerly had warm relations with Assad, has actively supported the opposition since the start of the conflict in 2011.
But in the past 18 months, Ankara has been less concerned about Assad’s removal and focused on battling Kurdish militia in northern Syria, on the Turkish border.
In January, Turkey launched a military operation supporting Syrian rebels against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in its western enclave of Afrin.
In March, Turkish forces with the rebels drove the YPG — which Ankara says is linked to outlawed insurgents inside Turkey — out of Afrin city.