Turkey to Remain in Idlib As Long As Damascus Continues 'Violent Onslaught' - Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday reportedly said his troops will remain in Idlib as long as Damascus forces continue their violent onslaught in the last rebels strong hold of Syria, according to the sputnik's  reports

Erdogan had on Wednesday said Turkey was fully ready for its own operation in Idlib and could launch it at "any minute." This was after a Turkish delegation that went to Russia earlier this week for talks regarding the situation in Idlib returned disappointed and Ankara announced it was dissatisfied with the negotiations as no deal was struck.

In one of the latest responses by the Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday said reports that hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing Idlib in the direction of Turkey were false, one of the seemingly legitimate agitations of the Ankara, after a UN report said that the Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive displaced 900,000 people since December.
Turkey will not withdraw from Idlib Province as long as Syrian government forces continue to press on with their 'violent onslaught', President Erdogan said on Friday.

"According to the latest data, we have neutralised 150 'regime elements', destroyed 12 tanks, three armoured vehicles, 14 howitzers and two pickup trucks. We will not pull out from Idlib until the regime halts its aggression against the province's population. This is the only condition for cessation of hostilities", Erdogan said.

Erdogan added that the talks with President Putin to be held later in the day over the phone will determine Turkey's actions in Idlib Province.

According to the Turkish president, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have proposed holding a four-way summit in Istanbul on 5 March, with the attendance of Russia, to resolve the situation in Idlib.

Tensions Running High in Idlib Province

Earlier in February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Turkey had not fulfilled several key commitments on Idlib, including its failure to distinguish between the armed opposition, which is ready for dialogue with the government within the framework of the political process, from terrorists. In turn, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has claimed that Ankara had fulfilled its obligations in Idlib.

In May 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran, as the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, agreed during talks in Nur-Sultan (formerly, Astana) to create four de-escalation zones in Syria. Damascus gained control over three of them in 2018, but the fourth, located in Idlib and parts of several neighbouring provinces, is mostly controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organisation (formerly known as Nusra Front also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or al-Qaeda in Syria;  a terrorist organisation banned in Russia)*.

 In September 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised buffer zone in the province, where more than 10 different militant groups are operating along with Tahrir al-Sham.

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