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A child walkes past a Turkish 155mm self-propelled artillery gun in the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, near the Syria-Turkey border on February 12. Image Credit: AFP

Msocow: Russia directly accused Turkey for the first time of failing to abide by agreements in Syria’s Idlib, warning that the situation was being aggravated by the flow of Turkish troops into the province.

“We see the reason for the degradation in the chronic failure of Turkey to meet its obligations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters at her regular briefing Wednesday. The situation has “escalated to the limits,” she said.

“The situation is significantly aggravated by the delivery of weapons and ammunition” through the Turkish-Syrian border “as well as columns of Turkish armoured vehicles and troops,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Russia has been guarded in its comments until now on the escalating conflict in Idlib between Turkish and Syrian government forces, even as it has expressed concern about the deteriorating situation. Russia supports the Syrian forces in their attempt to crush Turkish-backed rebels and Al Qaida militants.

Despite rising tensions in their relations, Russia and Turkey have maintained an uneasy partnership in Syria even as they have backed opposing sides. The Kremlin has previously urged Turkey to uphold accords signed by Moscow and Ankara that aimed to resolve the Idlib situation, while avoiding direct accusations.

The latest statements appear to signal a shift in Russia’s attitude following a phone call earlier Wednesday between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Turkish PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to drive Russian-backed Syrian government forces from Idlib, escalating his threats against Damascus after being buoyed by rare public support from the US.

Erdogan has massed tanks and commandos in Idlib after at least 14 Turks, most of them soldiers, were killed by forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad, and on Wednesday threatened to hit Syrian targets “anywhere” if Turkish troops are harmed again.

“We’re determined to drive away regime forces until the end of February” from the vicinity of Idlib, he said. At least three Turkish army outposts have been cut off in the area.