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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Turkey may launch Syria offensive if Idlib attacks continue: Erdogan

Iran Press TV

Saturday, 01 February 2020 7:52 AM

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey may launch a military operation in Idlib if the ongoing offensive by Syrian government forces against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants continues there.

Erdogan said Friday Turkey would not allow new threats near its borders, adding it will resort to military power in Idlib as it did in its cross-border incursion in northern Syria unless fighting there is quickly halted.

On October 9, Turkish army forces and militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), who enjoy Ankara's patronage, launched a cross-border offensive into northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to clear members of Kurdish YPG militants.

Ankara regards the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in the Anatolian country since 1984.

"We will do what is necessary when someone is threatening our soil. We will have no choice but to resort to the same path again if the situation in Idlib is not returned to normal quickly," Erdogan said Friday.

"We will not refrain from doing what is necessary, including using military force," he said.

The remarks come as Syrian government forces are advancing against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in Idlib, tightening the noose around the extremists in their last major stronghold.

The Syrian army declared the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib on August 5 last year.

It came after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Under the Sochi agreement, all militants in the demilitarized zone that surrounds Idlib, and also parts of the provinces of Aleppo and west-central province of Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17, 2018, with the Takfiri groups having to withdraw two days earlier.

Turkey, which claims to be hosting a reported total of 3.6 million Syrian refugees since foreign-backed militancy began in Syria, says it fears a fresh influx of refugees from Idlib.

Turkey has 12 military observation posts around Idlib. The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Russia and Turkey to avert a Syrian government onslaught in Idlib.

However, the Kremlin said on Friday Russia was fully compliant with its obligations in Syria's Idlib region, but that it was deeply concerned about aggressive militant attacks on Syrian government forces and Russia's Hmeimim air base.

Erdogan on Wednesday accused Russia of violating agreements and that Ankara was losing patience with the military assault in Idlib.

Ankara itself, major European powers, and Washington are accused of helping trigger the crisis by either arming militants in Syria or providing safe passage for them into and out of the Arab country.

Turkey has invaded Syria twice so far – in 2016 and 2018 – to drive back Kurdish militants whom it associates with anti-Ankara terrorists. It has been maintaining an unlawful presence in the Syrian territory ever since.

Syria says Turkey's military presence in the country is illegal and would ultimately face Syrian government action.

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