Turkey, World

‘Turkey expects parties in Idlib to act on Sochi deal’

Turkish defense minister says withdrawing from observation posts in Idlib ‘out of question’

Sarp Ozer and Sinan Uslu   | 19.02.2020
‘Turkey expects parties in Idlib to act on Sochi deal’


Turkey expects parties in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province to conform to their commitments under the Sochi deal with Russia, the country's defense minister said on Wednesday.

“Withdrawing from our observation posts [in Idlib] is out of question,” Hulusi Akar told reporters before attending his Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting in the capital Ankara.

Akar said any attack on Turkish observation posts would be retaliated.

"We expect the parties [in Idlib] to rapidly comply with their commitments under the Sochi deal such that a cease-fire could be achieved and bloodshed can be stopped," he said. "We have complied and we expect the other parties to do the same."

Akar said the situation in Idlib had a military, security and defense dimension, adding that “the humanitarian aspect” should be considered as well.

"Millions of people there have left their homes. Children, women and the elderly... they are trying to survive under the rain and snow, in difficult weather conditions,” the minister said, adding that Turkey extended a helping hand to those in Idlib through its military and welfare organizations.

Tensions in the region have escalated after Syrian regime attacks in Idlib martyred 12 Turkish troops, who were in northwestern Syria, just across the Turkish border, as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed the Sochi deal on Sept. 17, 2018. Both the sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The regime and Russian attacks were paused momentarily after the deal, and almost 80,000 displaced Syrians returned to their homes. But the regime forces and its ally Russia resumed their attacks on residential areas in a blatant violation.

More than 1,800 civilians have since been killed due to artillery fires and airstrikes.

Assad regime advances have forced over 1.7 million civilians to flee toward the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million Syrians, and the largest number of refugees in the world.

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