Turkey will not vacate any of its 12 observation posts in Idlib Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said yesterday, adding that Ankara has told its soldiers to retaliate forcefully to Syrian attacks on their military posts.
"In the event of any action against them, they have been given instructions to retaliate even more powerfully," Akar said in an interview with the Associated Press. "In the event anything happens, there will be retaliation. We expect the regime to not take any action under any circumstances."
"We have said over and over that we would not pull back our personnel, soldiers from there. They will continue their mission in those de-escalation zones," he said.
Akar's remarks came before he was due to depart Ankara in a NATO defence ministers' meeting in Brussels.
The Turkish official called for "concrete" moves by allies to stop the Syrian government's aggression in Idlib, which he said would trigger a new refugee influx that would threaten Europe and beyond. He also warned that the humanitarian situation in Idlib would lead to increased radicalisation.
"NATO countries, NATO, Europe and the world must look at this issue more closely and must provide serious, concrete support," Akar said.
Turkey and Russia agreed last year in Sochi to stop acts of aggression and turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone, which was to be monitored by 12 Turkish observation points. However this was breached almost immediately by the Syrian regime and its allies, including Russia.