US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his country would not hesitate to take further military action in the Idlib region in northwestern Syria if the truce reached last week was violated.
Turkey and Russia, which support two different parties in the Syrian war, agreed to a ceasefire to stop the escalation of clashes in Idlib that led to the displacement of about one million people and brought the two countries closer to a direct confrontation.
In a speech to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish parliament, Erdogan said that small ceasefire violations occurred, adding that the priority for Turkey was the safety of 12 observation posts it had set up in the region.
“We will not be satisfied with responding even to the smallest attack here (in Idlib), we will deliver a much harsher response,” he added. He continued, “The Turkish soldiers, the sons of this nation, never need to protect (Syrian President Bashar) Assad, and let this be known.”
Separately, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying that the talks between Turkish and Russian officials on the implementation of the ceasefire were “positive and constructive” so far.
In the past few weeks, Russian-backed Syrian government forces have intensified their campaign to retake Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country. This prompted Turkey, which supports some opponents looking to topple Assad, to launch a counter-attack to stop the advance of Syrian forces.
A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks on details of the agreement, which the parties said would be completed by next week. The agreement provides for the establishment of a safe passage and joint patrols on both sides of an important east-west highway in Idlib.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşo أوlu told reporters in parliament that minor violations of the armistice had taken place, but he indicated that Moscow had warned Damascus to stop it.
“We are currently looking into measures related to opening the M4 motorway for safe passage,” Gawishoglu said. There were talks last night and they will continue. ” “At the moment, we are working to convert this temporary ceasefire agreement into a permanent agreement. This is what we are doing now.”
Later, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that the second day of talks with the Russian delegation started in Ankara.
The cease-fire calms Turkey’s most pressing concern: stopping a new influx of migrants from Idlib, but at the same time reinforcing government forces ’recent gains, allowing Russia to move north further.
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