BFF-42 Erdogan says won’t allow Syria to gain ground in Idlib

238

ZCZC

BFF-42

SYRIA-CONFLICT-TURKEY,LEAD

Erdogan says won’t allow Syria to gain ground in Idlib

ISTANBUL, Feb 4, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said
Turkey will not allow Syrian forces to gain ground in the last opposition
stronghold of Idlib, in comments published Tuesday, a day after eight Turks
died in regime fire.

“Syria is right now trying to buy time by driving those innocent and
grieving people in Idlib toward our borders. We will not allow Syria the
opportunity to gain ground there,” Erdogan said in quotes published by the
Hurriyet newspaper and broadcaster NTV.

Syrian shelling killed eight Turkish soldiers and civilians in Idlib on
Monday, prompting Ankara to retaliate against dozens of Syrian army
positions.

“This is a clear violation of the Idlib agreement. There will of course be
consequences for the regime,” Erdogan said in the interview, which was given
to Turkish journalists on his plane returning from a visit to Ukraine.

Erdogan had earlier criticised Russia, the key backer of President Bashar
al-Assad, for failing to enforce peace agreements in Idlib, but he toned down
his rhetoric in the latest statement.

“We don’t need to get into a serious conflict or a serious confrontation
with Russia at this stage,” he said. “As you know we have very serious
initiatives with Russia.”

Turkey and Russia have enjoyed burgeoning trade and defence ties in recent
years despite being on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.

Under a 2018 deal with Russia, Turkey set up 12 observation posts in Idlib
aimed at preventing a full assault by Syrian forces, although one was
surrounded by Assad’s troops in December.

“Our military observation posts are playing a vital role there and they
will remain in place,” Erdogan vowed.

BSS/AFP/RY/20:30 hrs