Turkey warns it will take action over Idlib flare-up if diplomacy fails

Syrian civilians flee from Idlib in rain toward the north to find safety inside Syria near the border with Turkey Thursday Feb. 13 2020

Speaking in Istanbul later on Saturday, Erdogan again said Turkey would drive back Syrian forces unless they withdrew to the borders outlined by Ankara and Moscow in 2018.

The Syrian opposition aircraft observatory said that after taking off from Hamah Military Airport, a regime warplane returned to the runway as the traffic control tower issued a warning about the downed helicopter.

Turkey has fulfilled its responsibilities in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib in line with its de-escalation agreements with Russian Federation and Iran, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday, after violence spiked in recent weeks. A Syrian government offensive disrupted Ankara and Moscow's fragile cooperation, after 13 Turkish troops were killed in two weeks. "It also targets our soldiers at the observation points in the field".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened the Syrian government in recent days, saying the offensive violates a 2018 deal with Russian Federation meant to prevent a broad military operation. "Some of our observation posts have fallen into areas controlled by the (Syrian) regime", he said, referring to Turkish military observation posts established in Idlib under the 2018 deal.

And the leaders agreed to restart negotiations to increase bilateral trade to US$100 billion (S$140 billion) per year, it added.

But Turkey blames the situation on the advances by Syrian government forces in Idlib.

Turkey, which now hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, has said it can not handle a new influx from Idlib.

"Turkey has fulfilled its responsibilities in Idlib".

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, says Turkey has flouted deals it made with Moscow and aggravated the situation in Idlib.

Idlib remains the last terrorist enclave in Syria.

Meanwhile, Ankara has continued its deployments to Syria's Idlib, sending a large contingent of commandos and military vehicles to the war-torn country's conflict zone.

Syrians meet Turkish troops outside their base near the village of Binish, in Idlib province.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said later on Saturday that Turkey wants to resolve matters with Russian Federation over Idlib through diplomacy, but will take other steps if necessary.

"The Turkish delegation on Monday will attend talks in Moscow [on Idlib, Syria]", Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters after a meeting with his German counterpart Heiko Maas on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Regime forces backed by Russian Federation and Iran have recently made gains in their campaign to eliminate the last opposition bastion after the country's nine-year war. The military campaign in Idlib province and the nearby Aleppo countryside has killed hundreds of civilians, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

Turkey, which now hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, has said it can not handle a new influx from Idlib.

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 January 12.



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