Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Russia wants to protect its good ties with Turkey, after Turkey expressed discontent towards Moscow’s repeated operations inside Syria.
"As for the Russian Air Force operation in Syria, our actions in support of safeguarding Syria contribute to ensuring stability and security in the region sitting on Turkey's borders," Peskov said.
Turkey’s views on the Syrian conflict are fundamentally different from Russia’s.
Turkey, along with the US and a number of Arab states see the Syrian regime President Bashar al Assad as an illegitimate leader and the pivotal reason behind the Syrian tragedy. While Russia, along with Iran and Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, have stood by Assad’s withering regime for more than four years.
Since the beginning of the four-year long war in Syria, more than 250,000 Syrians have been killed, mainly by Bashar al Assad regime, whilst, half of the country’s population is displaced internally or in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, also more than 350,000 Syrians have claimed asylum in Europe this year alone.
Meanwhile, Russian warplanes and most recently warships have continued to conduct operations inside Syria. Russian warplanes have frequently violated Turkish airspace despite Turkey's and NATO's strict warnings.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Russia has not officially offered the alliance "any real explanation" over its violations of Turkish airspace, adding "for NATO, the violation of Turkish airspace by Russia does not look like an accident."
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly criticised the recent Russian military interventions transpiring mostly in northern Syrian territories near the Turkish border to bolster Bashar al Assad's regime, warning that “Russia will lose much if it loses Turkey.”
Joint operations between the Syrian regime ground forces and the Russian Air Force started on Wednesday, when Russian warplanes pounded opposition targets in Hama, Idlib and Aleppo.
On Thursday, Syrian regime ground forces and Russian planes launched a "big attack" on Syria’s Sahl al Ghab province.
The operation aims to "liberate areas and towns which have suffered from terrorism," Lieutenant General, Ali Abdullah Ayoub said according to Syrian state television on Thursday.
Meanwhile, also on Thursday, Syrian opposition fighters have shot down a helicopter in Syria's Hama province, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The helicopter was downed near the village of Kafr Nabouda in northern Hama, it appears to be a Russian aircraft, according to Syrian media reports and activists.
The helicopter was reportedly on its way to support Syrian regime and Russian fighters in Kafr Nabouda, when the opposition fighters shot the aircraft down.