Erdogan Warns Russia Risks Split With Turkey on Syria Attack




(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced rare recent criticism of Russia for its conduct in Syria, saying his "patience is running out" over the ongoing bombing of opposition Islamist forces in Idlib province.

"As of now, Russia is loyal to neither Astana nor Sochi" agreements, Erdogan told reporters on his way back from a visit to African countries, according to Anadolu Agency.

He was referring to accords struck by the two countries in recent years to curtail fighting in northern Syria. Russia and Turkey have stepped up their cooperation in the Syrian conflict while finding themselves on opposite sides of other Middle Eastern conflicts, such as the one in Libya.

"If we are loyal partners, Russia will make its position clear," Erdogan said. "Either it will have a different process with Syria, or it will have a different process with Turkey. There's no other way."

The comments follow reports that Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have taken control of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, the biggest town in Idlib province. The strategically important area last changed hands in 2012, Anadolu reported on Wednesday.

Russia responded to Erdogan's comments by saying it's committed to strictly implementing its obligations on Syria, the state-run Tass news service reported, citing the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

Millions of Syrians fleeing fighting in Syria over the years have headed for Turkey, and officials there have long warned of another major exodus as combat escalates in Idlib.

(Updates with Russian Foreign Ministry in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Firat Kozok in Ankara at fkozok@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Onur Ant at oant@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Paul Abelsky

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