Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has today said that he is determined to prevent the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad from violating the ceasefire in the province of Idlib in north-west Syria.
Speaking to his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group in the capital Ankara, Erdogan said: “We are determined to stop the regime’s attempts to violate the ceasefire – ourselves if needed. This is no joke. Everybody should see and accept that Turkey definitely does what it says.”
The ceasefire in the province of Idlib was struck between Turkey and Russia on Sunday, obligating both the Syrian regime and opposition groups to hold the peace and refrain from attacking each other. This is the latest in many ceasefires declared in the province, all of them having been broken mainly by the regime and its ally Russia.
Since April last year, the regime has led a campaign of constant aerial bombardment of the province with Russian support, aiming to recapture the last major opposition stronghold in the country in its nine-year-long civil war. This campaign was launched despite the deal between Turkey and Russia in September 2018 to make Idlib a de-escalation zone in which civilians could live safely from the conflict.
With much of the country having been recaptured by the regime, and consequently many of the citizens again being subject to its suppression and torture, Idlib has long been in Al-Assad’s sight. Throughout much of last year, however, the regime made little progress in retaking it from the opposition until Russian ground troops and Iranian forces became involved, helping Al-Assad advance into much of the province and capture many cities and areas.
“I hope the ceasefire lasts,” Erdogan continued, adding that compared to the previous ceasefires which were broken, “This time, the situation is different.” Turkey is an actor in the conflict that is particularly concerned about the fall of Idlib, as it would result in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees heading to the Turkish border at a time when the country is already hosting around four million refugees.
Last month, Erdogan admitted that the situation was so burdensome that Turkey would not be able to handle another huge wave of the refugees from Syria, making the lasting of the ceasefire of great importance. It is alleged that over one million displaced Syrian have already flocked towards the Turkish border due to the regime’s bombardment of the south of the province.