Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking toward the West for support, and at his country’s request NATO will be holding a meeting on the situation.
By Matthew Bodner
LONDON — Russia on Friday announced it had dispatched two state-of-the-art warships to the Middle East after an attack in Syria killed 33 Turkish soldiers.
Videos posted on social media showed two of Russia’s newest guided missile frigates, the Admiral Grigorovich and the Admiral Makarov, making their way through the Bosporus, a Turkish-controlled chokepoint that runs through Istanbul, on their way to the Syrian coast.
Though Russia and Turkey have seen a rapprochement in recent years, much to the chagrin of the United States and its NATO allies, the two sides pursue opposing goals in Syria: Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Ankara backs rebel groups opposing him in northern Syria.
Turkey has beefed up its support — both in men and material — for rebel forces in the face of a Syrian regime assault on the last remaining opposition stronghold in Idlib province. The escalation of violence has again highlighted Russia’s and Turkey’s conflicting interests in Syria.
The Russian defense ministry said Friday that the Turkish forces in Idlib came under Syrian government fire while operating alongside “terrorist formations” near the settlement of Behun, referring to Turkish-backed rebels.
“[Russian forces] have constantly requested and confirmed with their Turkish colleagues the coordinates of the location of all units of the Turkish armed forces positioned near the areas of terrorist actions,” the Russian statement said.
The statement said that Turkey failed to notify Russia that its troops were operating in the region while simultaneously denying that any Russian aircraft were conducting strikes in the region.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at a press conference Friday, expressed his condolences for the Turkish soldiers, but noted that the incident would have been prevented if Ankara had honored a deconflict agreement between the two militaries in the region.