Turkey warns it will take action over Idlib flare-up if diplomacy fails

Elias Hubbard
February 17, 2020

Turkey has so far sent thousands of troops and hundreds of convoys of military equipment to reinforce its observation posts in Idlib, established under a 2018 de-escalation agreement with Russian Federation.

Turkey and Russian Federation back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict but have collaborated on a political solution. It has urged Russian Federation to stop the attacks, warning it would use military power to drive back the Syrian forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month.

On Sunday, Russian warplanes mounted heavy air strikes in Aleppo province, bombing towns including Anadan, which was later seized by Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias, activists reported.

But Turkey blames the situation on the advances by Syrian government forces in Idlib.

"We can not overlook the cruelty happening in our neighbor", Oktay said. He also said USA statements of support for Turkey on Idlib "did not instill trust".

"If it won't work through diplomatic channels, we will take the necessary steps", Cavusoglu told reporters at the Munich Security Conference. "Some of our observation posts have fallen into areas controlled by the (Syrian) regime", he said, referring to Turkish military observation posts established in Idlib under the 2018 deal. "We are doing what is necessary against them", NTV quoted Erdogan as saying on a flight back from Pakistan. President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to strike Syrian government forces anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt. "Otherwise, we will handle this before the end of February", Erdogan said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after meeting his German counterpart on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that 2 million people could head for Turkey's border with Syria if no cease-fire is achieved.

He called the area "one of the last hotbeds of terrorism" in war-ravaged Syria.

Turkish and Russian officials held talks in Ankara on Saturday and Cavusoglu said a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow on Monday for talks.

Cavusoglu said later Saturday he held a positive meeting with Lavrov. "Our main current objectives are to bring down the level of violence on the ground, to ensure the safety of the guarantor countries' military personnel in and around the de-escalation zone, as well as to prevent the aggravation of military confrontation as a result of the ill-considered use of force", she added, laying out Russia's negotiating position.

"What is needed now as a matter of humanitarian concern for the people of Idlib and as a matter of basic avoidance of another refugee crisis, is firm pressure on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to stop", he said.

In the conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, Turkey has supported rebels looking to oust Assad.

While Ikhbariya said the M5 was now fully under the control of Syria's army, the M4 is still largely controlled by jihadists and Turkey-backed rebel forces. Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday that a 100-vehicle convoy of reinforcements, including troops, tanks and military vehicles and equipment, had been deployed to Idlib. The military campaign in Idlib province and the nearby Aleppo countryside has killed hundreds of civilians, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

Idlib hosts 4.5 million Syrians displaced from elsewhere in the country, and Turkey does not want to add to its already substantial burden of Syrian refugees.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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