Turkish troops at posts have orders to respond to any acts of hostility, defence minister tells commanders at Syrian border.
Turkey will remain at its observation posts monitoring a ceasefire in northwestern Syria, and its soldiers have orders to respond to any acts of hostility, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Sunday.
"In no way will we evacuate our 12 observation points. We will heroically carry out our mission of ensuring the ceasefire stays in place. We are not going to leave," Akar told army commanders in Hatay, a southern Turkish province bordering Syria.
"We have 12 observation posts there. They were established under the Sochi agreement. We respect and support the agreement, and we expect Russia to try to comply with it."
His remarks come in the wake of attacks by Assad regime's Russian and Iranian-backed forces, which created chaos and sent some 47,000 people fleeing Syria's Idlib for Turkey's borders.
Akar said, "Innocent people have suffered a lot already and the regime shouldn't be allowed to make them suffer any more. This is what we are trying to ensure."
Turkey's military observation posts are located in Idlib.
Akar said Turkish troops at these observation points have been ordered to respond without hesitation if they are attacked or harassed.
"Regarding the observation posts, my clear instruction to our soldiers there is to retaliate immediately. If they face any provocation or attack, they will hold their positions. "
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Since then, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime forces in the de-escalation zone as the ceasefire continues to be violated.
Over a million Syrians have this year moved to areas near the Turkish border due to intense attacks on Idlib.
According to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Idlib province is home to around 3 million civilians, 75 percent of them women and children.