Assad must leave Turkey’s Idlib posts alone: President

The Assad regime must fall back from Turkey's observation posts in northwestern Syria this month or Turkey will force the issue, said the Turkish president on Wednesday

"If the Syrian regime will not retreat from Turkish observation posts in Idlib in February, Turkey will be obliged to do so itself," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's lawmakers in parliament.

"Turkey's air and land forces will move freely in all operation areas [in Syria] and in Idlib, and they will conduct operations if needed," he added, amid speculation of fresh Turkish moves in northern Syria.

The Syrian regime is violating the cease-fires reached in Idlib, said Erdogan, citing an attack this Monday that martyred seven Turkish soldiers.

"The attack on our soldiers the day before yesterday was a turning point in Syria for Turkey," he said.

Erdogan added that every attack on Turkish soldiers or its allies will face retaliation, without any warning, regardless of the source of the attack.

In its military operations, "Turkey's main principle is not to hurt lives or the property of innocent people," he said.

Monday's Assad regime attack in Idlib, northwestern Syria, martyred seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor working with the Turkish military, and injured 13 people.

In retaliation for the deadly attack, Turkey struck over 50 targets and killed 76 Syrian regime troops.

Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

It is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire including a fresh cease-fire that started on Jan. 12 launching frequent attacks inside the zone and killing at least 1,300 civilians since the agreement.

Turkey has complained of the carnage and continued attacks and urged Russia to rein in its ally Assad to stop the bloodshed.

Source: Anadolu Agency