Special to WorldTribune.com
Moscow said it has reason to suspect that Turkey is planning a military incursion into Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it has observed “a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.”
Ankara responded by saying it has the right to to protect its security and accused Russia of diverting attention from its own “crimes” in Syria.
“They are simply diverting attention from their attacks on civilians as a country already invading Syria. Turkey has all the rights to take any measures to protect its own security,” said a senior official in Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office.
A source told Reuters that Syrian troops, backed by Russian warplanes, are closing in on Aleppo, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Turkish border. A source said Iranian fighters are playing a crucial role in the siege on Aleppo.
“Qassem Soleimani is there in the same area,” said the source, referring to the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) elite Quds force who is responsible for overseas operations.
Up to 70,000 refugees from Aleppo were reportedly moving toward the Turkish border to escape the siege and Russian airstrikes.
Davutoglu said the “humanitarian logistic corridor” between Turkey and Aleppo was “under the invasion of these foreign fighters and regime forces (with) the support of Russian warplanes. What they want to do in Aleppo today is exactly what they did in Madaya before, a siege of starvation.”
Davutoglu said Turkey’s door would remain open to all Syrians. It has already taken in more than 2.5 million refugees.
The United Nations on Feb. 3 suspended the first Syrian peace talks in two years.
“I think the special envoy decided to suspend the talks because the organization did not want to be associated with the Russian escalation in Syria, which risks undermining the talks completely,” a UN official told Reuters.