Erdoğan warns of incursion into Idlib

President Erdoğan has warned that Turkey will not hesitate to send troops into Syria’s Idlib unless Syrian regime forces halt their attacks in the region. "We will do what is necessary when someone is threatening our soil. We will have no choice but to resort to the same path again if the situation in Idlib is not returned to normal quickly," Erdoğan said.

Duvar / Reuters

Turkeymay launch a military operation in Syria's northwestern Idlib regionunless fighting there is quickly halted, President Recep TayyipErdoğan said on Jan. 31 as attacks by Syrian government forcesrisked a new wave of refugees.

SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad's forces, backed by Russian air power, havemade rapid advances in Idlib, the last major rebel-held stronghold inSyria's nearly nine-year war, in an offensive which has displacedhundreds of thousands of people.

Therecent campaign has also raised tensions between Ankara and Moscow,which back opposing sides in the conflict.

Turkey,which already hosts 3.6 million refugees from Syria, fears a freshwave of migrants from Idlib. It has 12 military observation postsaround Idlib, set up under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, andseveral of them have since been surrounded by advancing Syriangovernment forces.

Erdoğanaccuses Russia of violating agreements to reduce the fighting inIdlib, a charge Moscow denied on Jan. 31. Kremlin spokesman DmitryPeskov said Idlib was a haven for militants targeting Syrian troopsand a Russian airbase in Syria.

Speakingin Ankara, Erdoğan repeated Turkey could not handle a fresh influxof migrants and would not allow new threats near its borders, even ifit meant resorting to military power as it did in three previouscross-border operations in northern Syria.

"Wewill do what is necessary when someone is threatening our soil. Wewill have no choice but to resort to the same path again if thesituation in Idlib is not returned to normal quickly," Erdoğansaid.

Healso appeared to hold out the option of another operation innortheastern Syria, where in October Ankara targeted the SyrianKurdish YPG militia that it calls a terrorist group.

"Wewill not refrain from doing what is necessary, including usingmilitary force," he said, adding Turkey wants stability andsecurity in Syria.

Russia 'in full compliance with its obligations in Idlib'

Lateron Jan. 31 the Kremlin said Russia was fully compliant with itsobligations in Idlib, but that it was deeply concerned about what itsaid were aggressive militant attacks on Syrian government forces andRussia's Hmeimim air base.

Turkey,which has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad, has repeatedly calledfor Assad to step down.

"Wewill not allow the regime to put our country under the constantthreat of migrants by tormenting, attacking, spilling the blood of...its people," Erdoğan said.

Topics Syria