Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Sunday Ankara would do what is necessary if Syrian government forces try to block military reinforcements to the observation posts in last rebel-held province of Idlib.
“Our personnel there [Syria] are coordinating the supply issue with their Russian counterparts. Despite this, if there is blocking, we express it very clearly, we will do what is necessary,” Akar said during an interview with Hürriyet.
Turkey maintains a dozen observation posts in Syria’s Idlib within the framework of a deal between Ankara and Moscow.
In 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a demilitarised zone in Syria’s last rebel enclave and to crack down on jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in return for staving off a destructive Syrian regime offensive into the province, which would likely have resulted in millions more Syrians fleeing into Turkey.
But, Syrian government forces started an offensive in the region, saying that Turkey failed to keep its promise and have pushed close to the province’s centre in recent weeks, with support from Russian airstrikes, which has forced a new wave of migration towards the Turkish border.
Several Turkish observation posts are in areas that the Syrian government took control recently.
“Turkish observation posts will stay in the area as per the agreements signed with Russia and reinforcements will continue to take place,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier this week that Ankara would take matters into its own hands if Syrian government forces did not withdraw beyond Turkey’s observation points in Idlib until the end of February.
“Do not force us. Otherwise, our plan B and C are ready,” the defence minister said, adding that Turkey earlier carried out 3 major military operations after it failed to come to terms with its partners.