Ankara: Turkey will remain in Idlib
Ankara and Moscow were able to reach an agreement during talks on the Syrian province of Idlib, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday.
"We have reached a great agreement in the negotiations," Turkish TV channel TRT quoted him as saying.
At the same time, the minister noted that "Turkey will remain in Idlib, withdrawal [of Turkish forces] is not an option."
He specified that the army units would not change their locations.
The minister also warned that if the ceasefire in Idlib is violated, the Turkish military will continue to strike Syrian government forces.
"The Turkish military in Syria is ready for any development of events. We will resume the operation ("Spring Shield"). The Idlib agreements are in the interests of both Turkey and the Syrian people. We are closely monitoring the situation in Syria," said Akar, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
He reminded that from March 15 Turkey and Russia will start joint patrols in Idlib.
After talks in Moscow on March 5, Erdogan and Putin announced a truce that took effect in the region the following day at midnight.
"Our task is to prevent the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region. We will make every effort to provide the necessary assistance to all those in need, and we will also ensure that refugees return to their homes," Russia's Interfax quoted Erdogan as saying.
At the same time, Erdogan stressed that Turkey reserves the right to retaliate in the event of an attack by Syrian government forces. Erdogan promised that Turkey would be in contact with Russia on this issue.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the talks that an agreement had also been reached create of a 12-kilometer security corridor along the M4 highway. According to the minister, "specific parameters of the security corridor will be agreed by the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Republic of Turkey within seven days."
In addition, Lavrov said, an agreement was reached to begin joint Russian-Turkish patrols on the M4 highway on March 15 “from the town of Trumba, located two kilometers west of Saraqib, to the settlement of Ain al-Habr".
Erdogan stated that there is a need to change the status of the Idlib de-escalation zone, Turkish Anadolu New Agency reported.
"The formation of a new status quo in the Idlib de-escalation zone is inevitable against the background of tragic events resulting from attacks by Assad supporters, which also led to the death of Turkish soldiers," Erdogan said.
Erdogan stressed that all responsibility for the violation of the Idlib agreements lies with supporters of Bashar al-Assad. According to him, it was the aggressive actions of Assad's supporters that destabilized the region.
"Turkey is determined to continue implementing the peace initiatives, including the Sochi agreements, until a solution to the crisis in Syria is found, based on the territorial integrity and political unity of this country," Erdogan said.
Talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, face to face and after with the Russian and Turkish representatives, lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes in the Kremlin.