Turkey's foreign minister said Tuesday that Ankara and Moscow were trying to keep peace efforts for Syria alive despite Syrian government advances and a deadly clash between Turkish and Syrian forces.
However, Mevlut Cavusoglu also renewed a call for Russia to "rein in" Syrian government forces and reiterated Turkey's determination to retaliate against any future Syrian attack on its troops.
Tass news agency reported on Tuesday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his meeting with Rossiyskaya Gazeta editors that Ankara had failed to fulfill several key commitments within the framework of the agreement it reached with Moscow on the normalisation of the situation in Syria’s Idlib province.
"Unfortunately, at this stage, the Turkish side failed to fulfill a couple of key commitments that were supposed to solve the Idlib problem altogether. First, they failed to separate the armed opposition, which collaborates with the Turks and is ready for dialogue with the government, from the terrorists for the Nusra Front which turned into ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.’"
"The second aspect connected with risks and threats originating from the Idlib de-escalation zone, involves moving hundreds of militants, including Nusra and ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’ members, to Libya, for taking part in escalation of fighting in that country," the minister disclosed.
"I would like to underscore again, considering all factors I’ve mentioned, Russia cannot solve this problem alone, but it can fight for unconditional and meticulous fulfillment of agreements on Idlib. This is what we’re talking about with our Turkish partners," Lavrov added.
"We reminded our Turkish partners about that, too. We will keep fighting for fulfillment of all points of the decisions made by the presidents of Russia and Turkey," he said.
The exchange of fire in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, increased tensions between the two neighboring countries and threatened to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey, which have sought to coordinate their actions in Syria.
"The Astana and Sochi peace processes have not been completely destroyed but have lately started to suffer and to lose importance," Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara, referring to Russian-Turkish peace initiatives that have also involved Iran.
He added that Turkish officials were in constant contact with Russian counterparts in order "to keep the Astana and Sochi processes alive, to strengthen them, and to arrive at a political solution."
The assault on the Turkish troops came amid a Syrian government offensive that has been advancing since December into the country's last rebel stronghold, which spans Idlib province and parts of the nearby Aleppo region.
Turkish troops are deployed in some of those rebel-held areas to monitor an earlier cease-fire that has since collapsed.
Meanwhile, funerals are being held across Turkey for the Turkish servicemen that were killed.
The deaths were one of the highest single-day tolls for Turkish troops in Syria. Ankara has lost scores of military personnel in the Syrian war.