Turkey is determined to push back Syrian regime forces from Turkey’s observation posts in Idlib, northwestern Syria, by the end of February, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday.
“The problem in Idlib could not be resolved if the regime forces do not withdraw from areas determined in the Sochi agreement,” Erdogan said at an award distribution ceremony held at the provincial directorate of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Istanbul.
“We would be glad if we could do this with the support of our friends,” he added.
Underlining Turkey’s resolute stance to clear Syria of terrorists, he said Turkey has tried to prevent the occupation and annexation of the Syrian territories.
It is impossible to prevent new migration waves to the Turkish borders and ensure the return of Syrian refugees from Turkey unless the Idlib issue is resolved, the president said.
On Monday, five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, following a similar attack just last week martyring seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.
Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and neutralizing over 200 Assad regime troops.
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.
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 regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year.
Turkey remains the country with the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million migrants since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
*Writing by Gozde BayarAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.