Assad regime, Russia, Iran-backed militias massacre civilians in Idlib, Erdoğan says

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 12.02.2020 11:26
Updated 12.02.2020 16:27
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks at the AK Party parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 AA Photo
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks at the AK Party parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 (AA Photo)

Turkey will take concrete action to ensure Bashar Assad regime forces withdraw from the area near the observation post in northwest Syria's Idlib province by the end of February, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday, as he accused the regime, Iran-backed militias and Russian forces of massacring civilians in the area.

Speaking at the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting in Parliament, Erdoğan said Turkey will no longer act by relying on empty promises but according to the reality on the ground.

The president noted that Turkey has been patiently waiting for the terms of the agreements to be implemented in Syria, but its patience has run out – especially after regime attacks started targeting Turkish forces in Idlib.

"I would like to highlight once again that most of the attacks carried out by the regime and Russia in Idlib target civilians rather than terrorists," Erdoğan said, adding that the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran-backed militias continuously massacre civilians in Idlib.

The goal of regime attacks against civilians is to push them toward the Turkish border to facilitate the easy takeover of the area, the president said, adding that Turkey has reinforced its military units in the area and is cooperating with moderate opposition forces.

"If the regime or terrorist organizations gain complete control over Syria, then Turkey's security and stability will be threatened," Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey will only be safe if security is established in Syria.

Last week, an Assad regime attack in Idlib killed seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor working with the Turkish military and injured over a dozen people. Erdoğan noted that the number of Turkish casualties in Idlib reached 14, while 45 soldiers were injured in the attacks.

In retaliation, Turkey struck Assad regime targets and killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.

Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians there have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year.

Turkey remains the country with the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million Syrians since the start of the Syrian civil war.

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