Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said that Turkey will send additional troops to Syria’s Idlib in order for the establishment of a ceasefire and to make it permanent.
“Those who don’t comply with the ceasefire, including the radicals, will be hit and all precautions will be taken,” Akar told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on Feb. 13, adding that he had the chance to share Ankara’s views and expectations on Idlib with NATO officials and defense ministers of allied countries.
Saying that Syrian army attacks have caused an increase on radicalization and migration, Akar noted that one million Syrians are heading towards the Turkish border.
“Our observation posts that we have reinforced will continue to play an important role on monitoring the situation on the field. The aim of us reinforcing our presence in Idlib is to make sure that the ceasefire holds permanently,” he added.
Ankara has deployed more than 1,000 troops to its military posts in Idlib since last week.
Akar’s remarks came a day after Russia accused Turkey of flouting the agreements it made with Moscow on Syria and of aggravating the situation in Idlib.
The Kremlin said Ankara had failed to “neutralize” militants there, as per a 2018 agreement to establish a de-escalation zone.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Feb. 12 that his military would strike Syrian government forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt, after 13 troops were killed by Syrian forces in just over a week.
He also said that Ankara had given a message to the rebels it supports in the conflict to refrain from acting in an “undisciplined” way and give Syrian forces an excuse to strike.
The rebels are a mix of nationalist factions and jihadists who have had deadly rivalries but are now closing ranks.
Turkey, a NATO ally with the alliance’s second largest army, has repeatedly urged Russia to stop the Syrian attacks in Idlib, warning that it will use military power to push back the Syrian forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month.
Ankara and Moscow back opposing sides, but have collaborated on a political solution to the war.