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Turkish defence minister vows to hold on to Syria observation posts amid regime assault

Hulusi Akar said that Turkey would not abandon its Syria observation posts

Date of publication: 29 December, 2019

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Turkey’s defence minister has said that his country will not abandon 12 observation posts in Syria’s Idlib province, despite a regime assault which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Turkey will not withdraw from its observation posts in the Syrian rebel-held province of Idlib, which has been under an increasingly fierce aerial assault by Russia and the Syrian regime, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has said.

The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Syrian regime ally Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels, to avert an all-out Syrian regime onslaught in Idlib.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces surrounded one of the 12 Turkish observation posts in Idlib province, the last remaining rebel-held area of Syria, on Monday after overrunning nearby areas.

"We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement," Akar said in comments published on Sunday on the defence ministry's Twitter account.

"We will by no means empty those 12 observation posts, we will not leave there," Akar said.

His comments came during a visit, together with top army commanders, to the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border to inspect Turkish troops on Saturday.

Turkey, worried over a new wave of refugees from the Idlib region, is pressing for a fresh ceasefire deal, as it sent a delegation to Moscow on Monday.

Read also: Maarat Al-Numan evacuation brings new dangers for Syrians

"We are doing what's needed to put an end to this massacre," Akar was quoted as saying by the official news agency Anadolu.

He said Ankara expected Damascus ally Russia to "use its influence on the regime in order to stop ground and air assault" in Idlib.

The latest violence has displaced more than 235,000 people and killed scores of civilians, despite an August ceasefire deal and international calls for a de-escalation.

The Idlib region hosts some three million people including many displaced by years of violence in other parts of Syria.

"As long as this pressure remains in place, it will trigger a new migrant wave and put further burden on Turkey which is already hosting nearly four million Syrian brothers," said Akar.

Around 300 protesters - mostly Syrians living in Turkey - held an anti-Moscow demonstration near the Russian consulate in Istanbul on Saturday against the intensified attacks in Idlib, shouting "murderer Putin, get out of Syria!", referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 when the Assad regime brutally suppressed pro-democracy protests.



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