If Turkish soldiers in Syria are again targeted, Turkey will strike at Assad regime forces regardless of the 2018 Sochi deal with Russia, Turkey’s president said on Wednesday.
"If any harm comes to our soldiers in observation posts [in Idlib] or anywhere [in Syria], I declare from there that we will hit regime forces everywhere regardless of the Sochi deal," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's parliamentary group.
Turkey is determined to push back Syrian regime forces from Turkey’s observation posts in Idlib by the end of February, said Erdogan. The observation posts were established in 2018 under the Astana peace process.
To push back the Syrian forces, Turkey “will do what is necessary via land and air without hesitation," added Erdogan.
The Syrian people’s fight for freedom is also Turkey’s fight, he said.
Erdogan’s remarks came after five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syria on Monday, following a similar attack last week martyring seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.
The Turkish troops are in Idlib -- nominally a cease-fire zone, under a deal between Turkey and Russia -- as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.
Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and killing some 200 Assad regime troops.
Erdogan drew the attention of the international community to Syria, saying: "Nobody is safe where the blood of Turkish soldiers is shed. [...] Turkey will use its full force."
"At this point, we will not shut our eyes to excess, radicalism, treason and provocation of someone [in Syria]," he said.
Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
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