Syrian president Bashar Assad has slammed Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” as he made his first visit to areas in Idlib province recently retaken by Syrian government forces from Turkey-backed rebels.
Syrian state media showed images of Assad on Tuesday standing among Syrian soldiers in what the report said was strategic southern Idlib territory.
The media quoted Assad as calling Erdogan a “thief who robbed factories, wheat and fuel and is today stealing territory” — apparently referring to Turkey’s invasion this month into northeastern Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Turkey has also carried out other incursions into Syria and controls territory east of Idlib. It also has observation points inside Idlib, negotiated with Russia, to monitor a cease-fire there between the government and opposition fighters and jihadi groups.
The Kremlin says Turkey needs the Syrian government's permission for the deployment of its forces on Syrian territory, indicating Moscow is hoping for Ankara-Damascus talks amid the Turkish invasion into northeastern Syria.
- Turkey Replaces Four pro-Kurdish Mayors With State Officials, Local Offices Say
- Turkey to Get YPG-free 'Safe Zone' in Syria Following Erdogan, Putin Agreement
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that only Damascus could authorize a legitimate presence of Turkish troops on the territory of Syria. Ankara has so far rejected any notion of direct Turkey-Syria talks about its actions.
Peskov spoke just ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Russia on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He wouldn't say if Putin-Erdogan talks in Sochi could lead to an extension of the 120-hour cease-fire that ends Tuesday, saying it would be up to Turkey to decide.
He noted that Russia acknowledges Turkey's right to secure its' border but added that it expects the Turkish offensive in Syria to be "proportionate" to that goal