Turkey, Politics, Middle East

Assad must leave Turkey's Idlib posts alone: President

Turkey’s air and land forces will move freely and launch operations in Idlib, Syria if needed, says President Erdogan

Emin Avundukluoglu   | 05.02.2020
Assad must leave Turkey's Idlib posts alone: President

ANKARA

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 itself will be obliged to make this happen," 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 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.

Russia’s role

Turning to Moscow, which has worked with Ankara on bringing peace to Syria amid devastating attacks on Idlib and other areas, Erdogan said Turkey's sole expectation from Russia in Syria is that it understands Turkey’s sensitivities.

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 four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces 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 1,800 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.

No ‘peace plan’ without Palestinian consent

Erdogan also took time out to again criticize the U.S.’ so-called Middle East peace plan.

The plan would “legitimize the occupation, devastation, and expropriation policies of Israel that have been going on for 70 years," Erdogan said.

"We will never back any plan which lacks our Palestinians brothers’ consent," he stressed.

Last week, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House -- with no Palestinians present -- U.S. President Donald Trump announced his proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the event, Trump referred to Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital."

The so-called "Deal of the Century" would unilaterally annul previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything they have been demanding.

Turkish flag ripped apart in EU parliament

Erdogan also criticized a Greek MEP for ripping apart a Turkish flag, reminding that the red color of the flag symbolizes the blood of brave Turkish martyrs.

The act of Ioannis Lagos at the European Parliament is a sign of cowardice, Erdogan said, calling it immorality and impudicity.

During a debate on Jan. 30 over a large number of migrants on Greek islands, Lagos blamed Turkey for the "stream of migrants coming into" his country and "getting away with whatever it likes."

He then tore a Turkish flag made of paper into pieces and balled up the scraps, throwing them to the floor.

Lagos is one of the most prominent figures of the far-right racist Golden Dawn party.

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