President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that three Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria's Idlib, adding that the Syrian army suffered a much bigger loss.Kremlin says no plans for Putin-Erdoğan meeting in Istanbul on March 5
"We have three martyrs in Idlib. May they rest in peace. But on the other hand, the regime's losses are very big," Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Feb. 27, adding that developments there are turning in Ankara's favor.
Erdoğan also said that it would be impossible for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to keep his post if Russia and Iran didn't support him, adding that talks with the Russians are ongoing.
"Our battle will continue. We are saying that we're in Idlib as per the Adana Agreement," he said, referring to an agreement signed in 1998 by Turkey’s then-President Süleyman Demirel and Syria’s then-President Hafez al-Assad.
Ankara and Moscow back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey supporting rebels and Russia backing Assad.Turkey-backed rebels regain key Syrian town of Saraqeb
The Syrian army has pushed hard in recent months to retake the last large rebel-held region in northwestern Syria after nine years of war that has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands.
With Russian backing, Syrian government forces aided by Iranian militias have gained ground in northwest Syria since December.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Idlib province in an incursion to back the rebels against the offensive by the Syrian army.
As well as sending troops, tanks and artillery into the region across its border, Ankara has set up new outposts in what rebels say is preparation for a Turkish operation.Two Turkish soldiers killed in air strike in Idlib
Erdoğan previously urged Assad to pull back from territory that Ankara says is part of a buffer zone agreed with Russia by the end of February.
AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik said on Feb. 27 that preparations are complete.
"When the time given to the regime to withdraw expires, the Turkish Armed Forces will carry out their duties based on the orders they receive and nobody should doubt our determination about this," Çelik said.
On Feb. 26, Erdoğan said he would probably meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Istanbul on March 5 to discuss Idlib. However, the Kremlin said Putin currently had no plans for such talks on that date.
Turkish and Russian officials were holding a second day of talks in Ankara on Feb. 27. Two previous rounds in Ankara and Moscow have not yielded tangible progress.Russia accuses Turkey of helping foreign fighters enter Libya
The two countries were discussing opening Russian-controlled air space in Idlib for armed and unarmed drones, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as telling reporters, but he added that problems over the issue persisted.
During his speech on Feb. 27, Erdoğan slammed main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for urging the government to talk to Assad.
"Mr. Kemal, you don't understand these issues. You are ignorant when it comes to politics. We will walk over whoever harasses us," he said, adding that Kılıçdaroğlu "should go and talk to Assad if he loves him so much."
"I was meeting with Assad when you didn't even know him. If you love him so much, go talk to him yourself. If you can't see what kind of a murderer he is and how he treacherously kills his own citizens, then I have nothing to say to you," Erdoğan added.Erdoğan says 'several' Turkish soldiers killed in Libya, confirms sending Syrian rebels to country
"We don't accept Assad, who killed thousands of his citizens, as a friend. Let him be Mr. Kemal's friend, but he can't be ours," he also said.