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Erdogan ally says Turkey should be prepared to invade Damascus and topple Assad

Ultra-nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli is in an electoral coalition with Erdogan's AKP [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2020

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Devlet Bahceli called on Turkey to review its ties with Russia and prepare to take Damascus after the Syrian regime attacked Turkish military posts.
A prominent ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Turkey to ready itself to capture Damascus after Syrian regime fire killed a dozen Turkish soldiers over the past week.

"The Turkish nation should plan to enter Damascus and destroy the oppressors if necessary," said Devlet Bahceli, leader of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

"Burn Syria, destroy Idlib and damn Assad," he told parliament on Tuesday during a party meeting.

Bahceli's fiery remarks followed the deaths of five Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Monday.

Syrian regime forces attacked a Turkish military post in Taftanaz, Idlib, a week after firing on another Turkish observation post, killing eight Turkish personnel.

Ankara said it "neutralised" 101 regime troops in response.

Tensions between Ankara and Damascus have skyrocketed over the past week, with Turkey threatening to launch what would be its fourth military offensive on Syrian soil over attacks on military posts established under a 2018 ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Ankara beefed up those positions following last week's regime assault, sending at least 350 vehicles with commandos backed by armoured vehicles.

Turkey has urged the regime to retreat to the ceasefire lines that were agreed in 2018, warning that if it does not, Ankara will deploy its prepared "Plan B".

Turkish media published images of a train shipping dozens more armoured vehicles to the Syrian border on Tuesday.

Call to review Turkey-Russia relations

In response to Monday's renewed clashes, Bahceli urged the government to reviews its ties with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime.

While Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides, they have worked closely on the conflict in recent years.

The two countries also have strong trade and defence links, with Turkey purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defence systems last year and inaugurating a key gas pipeline in January.

Russia is equally responsible for the deaths of Turkish troops this month as the Syrian regime, Bahceli told parliament on Tuesday.

[Click to enlarge]

"We must face this reality," he said. "Our sincere wish is that the government should review its relations with Russia."

As a key backer of Bashar Al-Assad's regime, Russia has provided crucial air support to Damascus' campaign to reclaim Idlib province, the country's last major opposition bastion.

Moscow's devastating air raids have killed around 300 people and seen almost 700,000 civilians flee towards the Turkish border since December.

The exodus has fuelled Ankara's more aggressive stance towards the regime. Turkey already hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees and fears that Assad's bloody campaign to recapture Idlib will see thousands more flow across its borders.

Bahceli's MHP is a key ally of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). An electoral alliance between the two right-wing forces has seen the president's party cling to power despite a challenging economic crisis.

Syrian regime will pay a 'heavy price'

President Erdogan on Tuesday vowed that Damascus would pay a "heavy price" for any further attacks on Turkish troops.

"The more they attack on our soldiers, they will pay a very, very heavy price," he said during a televised ceremony in Ankara.

"The regime... got what it deserved in Idlib," the president said, referencing Turkey's military response. "But it is not enough."

He said he would reveal on Wednesday the steps to be taken after the fresh flare up in Idlib.

Agencies contributed to this report

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