Erdogan vows more retaliation against Syrian regime

2020-02-12 18:31

Turkish troops will continue to respond to Syrian regime attacks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, as the two sides engage in deadly tit-for-tat skirmishes in northern Syria.

Turkish officials said on Monday that 101 Syrian regime soldiers had been "neutralised" following the killing of five Turks in Idlib - the last major rebel bastion in Syria. There was no independent confirmation of the figures.

"The more they attack our soldiers, they will pay a very, very heavy price," Erdogan told a televised ceremony in Ankara.

READ | Bullish Erdogan warns Libya 'chaos' could spread

Russian-backed government forces launched an all-out assault on Idlib in December, retaking town after town. Hundreds of thousands have fled and hundreds of civilians have been killed.

Turkey has backed some anti-regime groups in the eight-year conflict and set up military posts in Idlib under a 2018 deal with Russia.

Turkish officials say three of these so-called observation posts have been encircled by the Syrian army and Erdogan has given Damascus until the end of the month to withdraw.

Seeking solution

Monday's exchange was the second such clash in a week.

Erdogan said the Syrian regime had "got what it deserved" in Idlib but that it was "not enough", adding that he would reveal his next steps on Wednesday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged Russia and Iran - another Damascus ally - to stop President Bashar al-Assad's assault on Idlib.

"The regime's guarantors, Russia and Iran, should halt the regime's aggression," Cavusoglu said, quoted by the private NTV broadcaster.

A Russian delegation including military and intelligence officials held two rounds of talks in Ankara seeking a solution to the clashes in Idlib, but no concrete agreement emerged.

Cavusoglu said Erdogan would speak on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the meantime, US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey arrived in Ankara late on Tuesday for talks the next day.

Jeffrey told reporters in Turkish after arriving that the US wanted to support its NATO ally Turkey "as much as possible".

"Turkish soldiers face a threat in Idlib. This threat comes from Russia and the Assad government," he said.

The Turkish military continued to send reinforcements to the border, Turkey's state news agency Anadolu reported.

A 50-vehicle convoy was sent from the southern province of Sanliurfa and was on its way west to Hatay province "to bolster military units on the Turkey-Syria border", the agency said on Tuesday.

Read more on:    turkey  |  syria conflict
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