More Turkish troops to ensure lasting cease-fire in Idlib, Syria

By Sarp Ozer

BRUSSELS (AA) – Turkey will send additional troops to Idlib, northwestern Syria, for the sake of a durable cease-fire, Turkey’s defense minister said Thursday.

“We are sending additional troops to enable a permanent cease-fire, we are going to control the field,” Hulusi Akar told reporters after a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.

“Force will be used against those who do not comply with the cease-fire, including radicals, and all measures will be taken,” he added.

The announcement followed recent deadly attacks by Assad regime forces on Turkish troops holding the existing cease-fire, as well as attacks on Idlib civilians, sending hundreds of thousands of them flocking to the nearby border with Turkey.

Akar said the additional observation posts in the region will enable Turkey to monitor the situation in the field.

“I would like to say once again that all measures to ensure a permanent cease-fire, including the use of force when necessary, will be taken,” said he.

Akar added that the attacks by the Assad regime are worsening both radicalization and migration in the region.

Syrians are fleeing regime-held areas amid harsh winter weather to reach Turkey and safety, said Akar, adding that the world should not ignore this human tragedy.

Akar also said that Turkey is doing all it can to hold the cease-fire, to control migration, and to stop the bloodshed.

This Monday five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syria, following a similar attack last week martyring seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.

The Turkish troops are in Idlib – a cease-fire zone, under a deal between Turkey and Russia – as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and killing some 200 Assad regime troops.

Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since, flouting a 2018 cease-fire and a new one that began Jan. 12.

*Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak