Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted that his country could launch a new military operation in northern Syria to cleanse the region of “terrorists” if pledges are not fulfilled, amid renewed tensions between Ankara and Moscow.
Erdogan was referring to two agreements reached between Turkey, the United States and Russia on removing the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Turkish border, under which Ankara halted a military operation it had launched in Syria in October 2019.
Turkey “will be taking resolute steps until absolute stability is achieved along its southern borders,” stressed Erdogan, adding that Ankara thwarted attempts to establish a “terror corridor” along its borders and showed “our Syrian brothers and sisters that they are not alone.”
Speaking during a video conference at the inauguration of Reyhanli Dam in Hatay, he vowed that Ankara will never accept any action that may lead to another humanitarian tragedy in Syria’s Idlib province.
In recent weeks, the Syrian regime and Russia have escalated attacks against the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other extremists groups in southern, northern and western parts of Idlib, which led to a new wave of displacement towards the Turkish border.
Erdogan had previously announced that Turkey remains committed to the memorandum of understanding it reached with Russia on Idlib in March. He warned, however, that Ankara will not tolerate the Syrian regime’s aggression.
He cautioned the regime that Damascus would suffer “heavy losses” if it persisted in violating the ceasefire, stressing that Turkey would not allow any “dark groups” in the region to breach it either.
Tensions have been rising between Turkey and Russia after a consultative military meeting held in Ankara in September failed to discuss Idlib.
Sources from both sides said that the officials did not agree on the points discussed during the meeting, which was described by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as “unfruitful.”
Russia had asked Turkey to reduce the number of military points in northwestern Syria or the number of forces deployed there, and withdraw heavy weapons at points under the control of the Syrian regime.
Ankara rejected the request, and Russia declined Turkey’s demand to hand over the cities of Manbij and Tal Rifaat.
Since the meeting, Russia has stopped carrying out joint patrols with Turkey on the Aleppo-Latakia International Road (M4), in implementation of the March 5 agreement.