Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) poses for a picture with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday. Fred Dufour/ Reuters
Syria does not want to see fighting with Turkey, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, after Turkey said one of its posts in Syria's Idlib region was attacked from an area controlled by Syrian government forces.
Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war, and Turkey, long a backer of rebels, co-sponsored a de-escalation pact for the area that has been in place since last year.
But the deal has faltered in recent months, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee. Idlib is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight years of civil war.
“We hope that our military and the Turkish military do not fight. This is our principled stance,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told reporters in Beijing, standing alongside the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi.
“What we are fighting is terrorists, especially in Idlib, which is Syrian territory, part of our country,” Moualem said in Arabic comments translated into Chinese.
The dominant force in the Idlib region is Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front that was part of al Qaeda until 2016. Others, including some with Turkish backing, also have a presence.
“The question now is, what does Turkey want to do in Syria? Turkey is occupying part of Syrian soil, and has a military presence in certain parts of Syria,” Moualem added.
“Are they protecting the Nusra Front? Are they protecting certain terrorist forces including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement?” he said, referring to an extremist group China blames for attacks in far western Xinjiang with operations elsewhere.
“This question needs to be asked of Turkey, what are their actual aims? We are fighting those terrorist groups and organisations. The whole world believes those people we are fighting are terrorists.”
Since April, Syrian government forces have stepped up shelling and bombing of the area, killing scores of people.
The rebels say the government action is part of a campaign for an assault that would breach the de-escalation pact.
The government and its Russian allies say the action is in response to rebel violations, including the presence of fighters in a demilitarised zone.
Turkey is home to around 3.5 million Syrian refugees, and most of those benefitting from the programme are Syrian.
Chinese state media have said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Xi Jinping that ethnic minorities live happily in Xinjiang, in what would be a stark reversal of Ankara’s past criticism of Beijing’s
Turkish and Russian officials are reviewing deployment of their forces in the Syrian border region of Tel Rifaat, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday, a day after cross-border fire from the area killed one Turkish soldier.
The Dubai Criminal Court has convicted a manager of a company in a case of embezzling Dhs7.5 million from his workplace with which he bought a villa for himself.
The Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH) unveiled details of compiling a “Glossary of Spots & Places in the Central Region of Sharjah,” at a press conference held on Sunday morning, at the SIH Offices in the University City. The event was attended by Dr. Rashid Al Mazroui, the primary researcher of the Glossary Dr. Minni Bunama, Director of Content and publishing at the SIH, officials of the SIH and media representatives.
A 15-year-old girl died and a truck driver was missing after a suspension bridge over a river in southwest France collapsed on Monday, reigniting a debate over infrastructure safety in the wake of last year’s disaster in Genoa.