Erdogan escalates threats against Assad loyalists in Idlib
ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to strike Syria should there be any new aggression against Turkish soldiers deployed across the border, escalating threats against Damascus after winning rare support from the US.
Turkey will push forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad away from the last major rebel stronghold in Syria and will heavily retaliate for any attacks on the Turkish military, Erdogan told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We’re determined to drive out the regime forces” from the area surrounding Idlib, he added.
Syrian forces have killed at least 14 Turks this month in Idlib, as the Turkish military proceeds with a rapid build-up in the northwestern province.
Erdogan’s remarks on Wednesday suggest he will no longer abide by an earlier pledge to give Syrian fighters until the end of the month to pull back from the area.
They also coincide with a visit to Turkey by the US envoy for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey, who expressed support for Ankara against the Assad regime.
The Russian-backed Syrian offensive on Idlib has marked a potential turning point in Ankara’s relationship with Moscow.
The two countries have so far maintained an uneasy partnership in Syria, where they back opposing sides, but disagreements over who should control Idlib have brought them to the brink of a standoff.
The lira briefly extended losses as Erdogan spoke, trading as low as 0.4% lower against the dollar before recouping some of its losses. It was down 0.1% at 6.0201 per dollar as of 11.57pm in Istanbul.