Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Ukraine today to sign a deal providing the Ukrainian army with assistance funding amid mounting tensions in Turkish-Russian ties following the death of at least eight Turks in Idlib during an exchange of fire with Russian-backed Syrian regime forces.
Why it matters: Erdogan didn’t hold back from criticizing Moscow from its long-time enemy Ukraine, which had been at war with Russia since 2014.
“The developments in Idlib have become intolerable. We have been very patient,” Erdogan said during the joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. “Right now, nearly a million people are escaping toward our borders as a result of the regime’s barrel bombs and unfortunately due to Russia’s negligence.”
Five Turkish soldiers and three civilian military personnel were killed by shelling from Syrian government forces as part of Damascus’ offensive against the war-torn country’s last rebel stronghold.
With ironic timing, Erdogan and Zelensky also signed several cooperation agreements, including a military assistance funding package for the Ukrainian army worth some $33 million.
The financial support comes in light of “the need of the Ukrainian army, particularly to buy arms,” Ukraine Ambassador to Turkey Andrii Sybiha was quoted as saying by the Ukrainian media. The Ukrainian military has been at war with Russia and the Russian-backed separatists since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
What’s next: The number of Turkish observation posts under siege by Syrian regime forces is likely to increase should the government troops continue their advance.
Three of the total 12 Turkish observation posts set up around Idlib as part of a de-escalation deal between Ankara and Moscow in 2018 are already under siege by Syrian forces.
Yet despite the recent fraying of Russian-Turkish ties over Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime, the tension between the two is not expected to escalate as Ankara’s cooperation with Moscow is on track in several other fields including energy, gas and arms trade.
Know more: Read Fehim Tastekin’s latest on why Turkey has no option but to accept the new status quo in Idlib, and Metin Gurcan explains here how Idlib has become a challenge for Russian-Turkish ties.