Syria Demands Withdrawal of Turkish Troops From Syrian Territory
As fierce gun battles continued in Idlib, Syria’s Foreign Minister demanded the withdrawal of Turkish troops in the region.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in a press briefing Tuesday that his country considers Turkey’s military presence in parts of northern Syria as illegal. Muallem then demanded neighboring Turkey to withdraw its troops from the Syrian territories. Yet he asserted that Syria is not interested in a military showdown with Turkey.
Muallem’s remarks came on the sidelines of his five-day visit to the Chinese capital of Beijing, where he met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Muallem held a press conference with Wang Yi where he made the remarks regarding Turkey’s presence in Syria.
According to the Syrian News Agency, the 13-year-long foreign minister of Syria emphasized Syria’s determination to eradicate all “terrorist” organizations that still operate in the northern province of Idlib.
However, according to the Syrian news agency Enab Baladi, Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, had previously said on May 22, that he would not order Turkish troops to pull out of Idlib unless the Syrian government de-escalated its presence in the region.
Muallem also said in the press conference that his country will give top priority to friendly countries like China, Russia and Iran, in terms of the reconstruction efforts of the civil war-torn Arab Republic of Syria.
Back in 2016, a Chinese special envoy to Syria, Xie Xiaoyan, stated that “China will be an integral part of reconstruction efforts of Syria, once the war in Syria comes to an end.”
Muallem’s statement comes as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has placed a series of economic restrictions on China, Venezuela and Iran.
For decades now, China and Syria have maintained close political and economic ties. China has repeatedly backed Syria by means of its veto power when it came to United Nations’ Security Council resolutions pertaining to Syria.
Fighting Continues in Idlib
Meanwhile, fierce gun battles ensued on Tuesday between forces of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and opposition militants in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Militants of the so-called Board of Liberation of Al-Sham, a Syrian rebel group, attacked a number of villages in northwestern Hama and southwestern Idlib on Tuesday. Media reports showed images of smoke rising up from targets struck by the Syrian Arab Army as Syrian warplanes, including helicopters, hovered over villages while infantry and tanks advanced.
A Syrian military source told Al-Masdar News that about 25 to 35 rebel fighters were killed during the fighting and that the army destroyed tanks and seven vehicles belonging to the opposition fighters.
The Idlib-based opposition forces are said to be linked to the Liberation Front of Levant or the former Al-Nusra Front, which are both believed to belong to the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, widely known as ISIL.
Based on recent agreements between Russia and neighboring Turkey, the Turkish military deployed troops in twelve positions in Idlib and in other northern areas that are controlled by the opposition fighters.
Idlib, a northwestern Syrian province, is situated on the border lines between Syria and Turkey and is said to be the last stronghold of opposition fighters.
Since 2011, the Arab Republic of Syria, home to nearly 19 million residents, has endured a civil war that was sparked by mass protests demanding social and economic reforms.
Since then, hundreds of thousands have been killed and injured, while hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. In recent years, Russia became a key ally for the Syrian regime, intervening in the war and helping Syria defeat the armed opposition groups.