Escalation in Idlib threatens fragile Turkish-Russian relations - DW

Russia-Turkey relationship is further under threat as attacks continue in Syria's last rebel-held bastion, Deutsche Welle said on Tuesday. 

The Sochi agreement signed between Russia and Turkey in 2018 that aimed to prevent an assault by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in Idlib is now proving to be under threat.

“Idlib, home to 280,000 people, could become a graveyard should hostilities continue,” DW said.  

Negotiations between Turkey and Russia did not prove fruitful after the death of 13 soldiers by shelling in Idlib last week as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces continued attempts to seize the strategic M5 highway, connecting southern Syria with Aleppo, from the rebels, DW said.

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent troops and military vehicles to Turkish outposts in Idlib. Erdoğan attempts to carry out his threat that Assad forces will “pay a heavy price” for the dead soldiers, though a direct clash with Russian aircraft and personnel would be risky and unhelpful in terms of de-escalation. 

"We might see a minor conflagration as we saw in 2015, when the Turks shot down a Russian jet, and then we would see who would back down first," DW quoted Tobias Schneider, researcher at Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, as saying.

"That's the big question now," he said.

But, the escalated tension could lead to renewed talks, according to political analyst Mohamad Kawas, adding that the countries could start a new process similar to Sochi meetings.

Turkey’s “beefed-up deployment” could be a tactic towards negotiations with Assad, DW said.