Meetings with Russian officials on ending the Syrian regime's onslaught and imposing a nominal ceasefire in northwestern Syria failed to produce results, Turkey's president told his party's lawmakers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his party's group meeting at Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on February 19, 2020.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his party's group meeting at Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on February 19, 2020. (AFP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday warned that Turkey would launch a military operation in Syria's Idlib by the end of February if the Assad regime fails to withdraw from behind Turkish military positions.

"An operation in Idlib is imminent," Erdogan told his party's lawmakers in parliament. "We are counting down, we are issuing our final warnings."

"As with all previous operations, we can start at any time. In other words, an Idlib operation is a matter of time," Erdogan said.

Meetings with Russian officials on ending the bloodshed and a nominal ceasefire have failed to produce results, Turkey's president added. 

"Although the meetings will continue, it is a reality that we remain very far from what we wanted. Turkey has made preparations to carry out its own operation plans in Idlib." 

Turkey is determined to transform Idlib into a safe place at any cost for the sake of both Turkey and the region's people, he said. 

For several years, Turkey has stressed the safety of Syrians along its southern border, both from terrorists seeking to form a terror corridor in northern Syria and from attacks by the Assad regime backed by Russia and Iran.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. 

But since then, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by Russian-backed regime forces, flouting both the 2018 ceasefire and a new one that started January 12. 

Since December, the Assad regime's advances have sent nearly 900,000 Syrians fleeing toward the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees, more than any country in the world. 

Since 2016, Turkey has launched three successful anti-terrorist operations across its border into northern Syria: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (October 2019). 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies