Turkey vows strong retaliation if Syria ceasefire violated

Turkey will initiate the harshest retaliation if the Syrian government violates the cease-fire in northwestern Syria’s last rebel-held Idlib province, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday. 

Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the Syrian war, agreed last week to end a months-long air and ground campaign by Syrian government against Idlib province. Hundreds were killed and around one million fled to the Turkish border as clashes ensued. 

“If those who stand opposite us do not keep their promise, we will never shy away from approaching them much more seriously than before,” Deutsche Welle Turkish quoted Erdoğan as saying in his weekly speech to legislators from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The ceasefire followed Turkey’s launching of Operation Spring Shield on Feb. 27 in the region after at least 36 Turkish soldiers killed an airstrike by Russian-backed Syrian government forces in Idlib.

“Turkey will do more than mere retaliation if its observation posts in Idlib are targeted,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey maintains 12 observation points skirting Idlib province, four of which were surrounded during the offensive. 

The Turkish president said there had been a number of small violations of the truce, which Ankara was monitoring carefully.

“We are closely monitoring the deployment of the Assad regime and allied militants near the cease-fire lines,” the Turkish president said, stressing that Turkey will abide by the cease-fire deal so long as the Assad regime do the same.

The current deal sets up a security corridor along the war torn country’s strategically crucial M4 highway, running east-west in Idlib. Turkish and Russian troops are set to begin joint patrols along the M4 on March 15.