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Over a month of escalation between Turkey, Syria

By AFP - Mar 05,2020 - Last updated at Mar 05,2020

BEIRUT — Tensions have soared between Syria and Turkey since early February, but an agreement on Thursday to call a ceasefire may reduce violence in Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib.

Here is a snapshot:

 

Worst clash since 2016 

 

Tit-for-tat shelling between Turkey and Russian-backed Syrian forces on February 3 is the deadliest since Ankara deployed troops to Syria in 2016.

A Syrian strike kills five soldiers and three Turkish civilians. Retaliatory rocket attacks kill at least 13 government troops.

The regime shelling comes after a Turkish military convoy of at least 240 vehicles enters the northwest of the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

The troops were sent to reinforce 12 Turkish observation posts in the region.

The clashes come after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Syria’s main foreign ally, Moscow, of “not honouring” agreements to prevent a regime offensive on Idlib.

 

Turkish ultimatum 

 

On February 5, Erdogan gives Syria an ultimatum to pull its forces back from Turkey’s observation posts by the end of the month.

Two days later, Turkish media report that Turkey has sent reinforcements to the observation posts.

On February 10, five Turkish soldiers are killed by regime fire on their positions in Idlib. Ankara says it has responded with heavy bombing.

 

Russia-Turkey tensions 

 

Erdogan threatens on February 12 to strike Syrian regime forces “everywhere” if his soldiers are harmed.

He accuses Russia of being complicit in “massacres” perpetrated by the Syrian government. The Kremlin accuses Turkey of failing to “neutralise terrorists” in Idlib.

 

Heavy losses 

 

On February 27, more than 30 Turkish soldiers are killed in air strikes blamed by Ankara on the Syrian regime. The observatory says Turkish reprisals the next day kill around 30 Syrian soldiers.

Turkey announces on February 29 it has opened its border to refugees who want to go to Europe. The country hosts about 4 million refugees, most of whom are Syrian.

On March 1, Ankara announces it has launched a fourth offensive against Syrian forces in Idlib dubbed ‘Spring Shield’. Over the coming days it says it has shot down three Syrian warplanes.

According to the observatory, 119 Syrian soldiers and 20 pro-regime fighters have been killed in Turkish bombing since February 27.

 

Ceasefire accord 

 

At a Moscow summit on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan agree on a ceasefire in Idlib province to take effect at midnight.

Erdogan says Turkey reserves the right to “retaliate with all its strength against any attack” by Damascus.

The two agree to launch joint army patrols along the key M4 highway in Idlib from March 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

 

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