Wednesday 28 June 2017

Russia and Turkey carry out joint strikes on Isil

A rebel fighter on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of al-Bab. Photo: Khalil Ashawi
A rebel fighter on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of al-Bab. Photo: Khalil Ashawi

Josie Ensor

Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides in the Syrian war, yesterday joined together for the first time to stage air strikes against Isil.

The strikes took place on al-Bab in Aleppo province, in an area Turkish troops and Syrian rebels are trying to oust Isil militants.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defence ministry official, said it was the first time the air forces of Ankara and Moscow had teamed up in this way.

He added that nine Russian and eight Turkish planes took part in the raid, which "destroyed" 36 targets.

The skies above northern Syria have become increasingly crowded - with the Syrian regime and US-led coalition also carrying out strikes on the northern town of al-Bab.

Turkey, which has the second-largest standing military force in Nato, may invoke the wrath of the alliance for its operation with a hostile air force.

The joint raid demonstrates a warming of relations between Moscow, which backs the Bashar al-Assad regime, and Ankara, which backs his foes. Such co-operation would have been unthinkable last year, after Turkey shot down a Russian jet on the border with Syria and the two cut all military ties.

Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey and stopped all flights to the country, until President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologised to President Vladimir Putin for the incident last June.

Since then, the two have negotiated an end to fighting in Aleppo and agreed a nationwide ceasefire, which has largely been holding since it came into force on December 30.

The truce was reached without the United States, which was once the opposition's main backer. The US has angered Turkey by backing Kurdish YPG forces inside Syria. The YPG's sister organisation, the PKK, has carried out several terror attacks against Turkish soldiers over the last year.

Turkey has also accused Washington of failing to do enough to support its push to take al-Bab from Isil even as the country provides the US-led coalition access to an air base to stage operations in Syria.

It is still not clear whether the incoming Donald Trump administration will accept an invite to peace talks brokered by Turkey and Russia in Kazakhstan next week.

A Western diplomat said that the talks in the capital city of Astana will likely not lead to any broader political solution. The rebels have so far only agreed to discuss matters relating to the ceasefire. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News