Security

Turkey urges Russia to address Syria truce violations

By AFP

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A Syrian man poses near a ground-to-ground missile fragment at the entrance of his destroyed house in the Idlib province village of Kansafra on March 8th, following a Russian-Turkish ceasefire deal. [Aaref Watad/AFP]

Turkey urged Russia on Wednesday (March 11th) to deal with alleged violations of a week-old ceasefire by Syrian regime forces in Idlib.

"Although there are only small incidents here and there, the ceasefire has started to be violated," said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "We are sharing these developments with Russia... and expect them to take measures."

Erdogan agreed a truce last week with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who supports the Syrian regime, but previous deals have proved temporary.

Turkey launched a military operation in Syria after more than 50 of its soldiers were killed in Idlib last month.

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Two Syrian youths ride their motorbike behind a Turkish military convoy passing through the area near the Syrian town of Kefraya on the highway linking Idlib to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, on March 10th. [Ahmad al-Atrash/AFP]

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said talks were proceeding "in a constructive fashion" with Russia to launch joint patrols along the key M4 highway in Idlib on Sunday, as agreed under the ceasefire deal.

As well as supporting some opposition groups, Turkey set up military observation posts in Idlib under a 2018 deal with Russia aimed at preventing a regime assault.

"We signed the temporary ceasefire in Moscow. The matter now is to turn this ceasefire into a permanent one," Erdogan said. "We are chasing this speedily now. Once we are done with it, we will have an easier task."

"In the face of the smallest attack (on our posts), we will not only retaliate, but we will respond much more heavily," he said.

The Syrian regime, backed by Iranian troops and Russian airstrikes, has been fighting to retake Idlib since December, pushing close to a million civilians northwards towards Turkey's border.

Turkey already hosts some four million refugees, and has called for greater assistance from Europe and its NATO partners in dealing with the crisis.

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