Turkey will not withdraw from its observation posts in Syrian rebel bastion province of Idlib which has seen an increase in violence carried out by regime forces supported by Russian airstrikes, the defence minister said.
The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Syrian regime ally Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels, to avert an all-out Syrian government onslaught in Idlib.
Government forces surrounded one of 12 Turkish observation post in Idlib province on Monday after overrunning nearby areas in a push to take the last opposition holdout, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in comments published on Sunday, December 29 on the defense ministry’s Twitter account.
“We will by no means empty those 12 observation posts, we will not leave there,” Akar said.
His comments came during a visit together with top army commanders to the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border to inspect Turkish troops on Saturday.
Turkey, worried over a new wave of refugees from the Idlib region, is pressing for a fresh ceasefire deal, as it sent a delegation to Moscow on Monday.
Akar’s visit to soldiers on the border region comes as Turkey is also readying to send troops to support the U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli against strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said Ankara would respond to an invitation from the Libyan national unity government and Turkish parliament would vote on a motion to send troops as soon as it returns from recess as early as next month.
With reporting from AFP