Russia has refused to abide by either the Astana or the Sochi agreements in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated, adding that Turkey will take its own actions from this point on.
"This is not a threat but our expectation is that Russia will give the regime the necessary warning," Erdoğan told journalists accompanying him on his return from the three-country visit in Africa.
Ankara has pushed for a diplomatic solution over Idlib bilaterally with Russia in the past, resulting in the Sochi deal struck in September 2018, and trilaterally with Russia and Iran with the Astana agreement struck the following year. However, despite these deals, the regime – together with Russia – has continued a brutal offensive on Idlib in recent months, which by December had displaced around 358,000 people, according to U.N. figures. Turkey, already hosting nearly 4 million refugees, has announced that it will not allow fresh waves of refugees to arrive from northern Syria. Despite the warnings, however, the offensive continues, as regime forces on Tuesday entered Maarat al-Numan, a town with symbolic and strategic importance. In light of the latest developments, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Turkey would not hesitate to retaliate if its observation points were threatened as Syrian regime forces advance through Idlib.
"Russia will continue the process differently, either with the regime or with Turkey. Russia tells us they fight against terrorism. Who are terrorists in their view? The people fighting to defend their own lands?" the president added.
In areas north of Maaret al-Numan, bombardments by regime ally Russia have prompted a fresh wave of refugees to emerge in recent days, with hundreds of vehicles packing a key exit route toward areas near the border with Turkey, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most have fled the town of Saraqib and the Jabal al-Zawiya regions, both located north of Maaret al-Numan. Russia has bombed areas around the main exit routes, despite the heavy outflow of civilians, the Observatory added.