Damascus must withdraw its troops from Turkey’s positions in Idlib or face retaliation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, following a deadly clash between the two nations’ forces in the jihadist-riddled area.
Things can’t continue to go the way they did on Monday, the Turkish president told a party session, referring to clashes between Turkish and Syrian troops in the northwestern Syrian governorate earlier in the week.
The Syrian government will have to pull its troops away from Turkish observation posts in Idlib by the end of the month, Erdogan demanded. He said Turkish troops will force Damascus to retreat if this is not done, deploying the army and warplanes if necessary.
Several Turkish personnel were killed when a military convoy was hit by Syrian artillery fire, as Ankara moved its troops into Syria without prior notice. The incident triggered a retaliatory bombardment of Syrian Army positions.
The Idlib governorate is the last large stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria. It was proclaimed a de-escalation zone under the Russia-Turkey agreements. Turkey, which has influence with several armed groups there, is supposed to help deescalate the armed conflict and assist with a transition to political dialogue and a peaceful resolution. It has 12 observation posts that are meant to monitor the situation.
Syrian troops have been gradually capturing some parts of the Idlib governorate, pushing militant groups – who continuously violated the ceasefire – closer to the Turkish border.
Russia blamed Monday’s incident on miscommunication with the Turkish side. Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, took part in an emergency phone call following the clashes in an effort to deflate the tension, and agreed to reinforce coordination in Syria.
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