ANKARA, Turkey — Direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian troops amid a Syrian government offensive in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib province are threatening to escalate into a full-blown conflict between the two neighbors and also shatter an alliance forged between Turkey and Russia.
Intent on halting the advance, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to take military action “everywhere in Syria” if another Turkish soldier is killed or wounded. Earlier, he warned Syrian government forces that they have until the end of February to retreat to the limits of a previously agreed cease-fire line in Idlib.
Turkey and Russia are simultaneously rivals and allies in different parts of the Middle East, including in Syria and Libya. Their interests align when it comes to gas supplies and weapons trade, even if they find themselves on opposite sides of proxy wars. And they both have a shared interest in defying U.S. influence in Syria.
Turkey and Russia had been working together to keep the calm in Idlib, negotiating cease-fires between the Moscow-supported Syrian government and the rebels, who are backed by Ankara. So far, talks between the two have failed to lift the impasse in Idlib.