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Turkey: Syrian troops attack moderate forces, not militants

ANKARA, Turkey – The Turkish Foreign Minister accused the security forces on Tuesday Syrian government to attack the fighters of the moderate opposition under the guise of fighting the extremists.

Mevlut Cavusoglu's comments came a day after Syrian government forces captured 14 villages as they advanced into the largest rebel-held enclave in the north of the country amid a wave of air strikes. The troops intend to reach an air base in the Idlib province and secure the road that connects the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria.

The government offensive against Idlib has forced thousands of civilians to flee the border with Turkey.

Cavusoglu said that the Syrian government's attacks on moderate opposition forces would be an "ax" of peace efforts.

Turkey, Russia and Iran took the lead in Syria's peace efforts during the past year. However, Turkey supports the opposition, while Russia and Iran are close allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Their support has tipped the war of almost seven years in favor of Assad.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that the number of Russian troops left in Syria is enough to prevent any attack by the militants.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Monday night that its forces have repelled a series of drone attacks against its bases in Syria: the Hemeimeem air base and a naval installation in Tartus. He said that of the 13 drones involved, seven were shot down and six were forced to land. The ministry said there were no damages.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Syria last month and ordered the partial withdrawal of troops.

Asked on Tuesday whether the withdrawal could have been premature in light of the drone attack, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian forces in Syria have "all the necessary means" to counter any challenge.

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