Syrian regime shouldn't play with fire: FM Çavuşoğlu
Sevil Erkuş- ANKARA
“The regime should not play with fire... As we have previously said, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of our soldiers and observation posts. We hope it will come to this point,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with his El Salvadorian counterpart Alexandra Hill.
“We should focus on the political process. We will accelerate our efforts in this bid in [the] upcoming period,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu said the Syrian regime insists on a “military solution because it does not believe much on the political process”.
An airstrike on the Turkish military convoy on Monday moving south towards the ninth observation point killed three civilians, Turkey’s defense ministry said. The ministry said the convoy had been sent to keep open supply routes and ensure the safety of the observation post, which could become cut off by the latest Syrian army offensive.
The minister said Turkey would not remove its observation post located near Morek at the moment, which a Turkish convoy was trying to reach on Monday when it came under attack.
“Right now we have no intention of moving it elsewhere. It will continue its mission. Our friends take the necessary military measures for security,” he stated.
Turkey’s ninth observation post in Morek is besieged by regime forces after the Assad forces took control of Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria.
Negotiations were underway between Turkey and Russia over the withdrawal of the Turkish position, Reuters quoted an anonymous pro-Damascus military source as saying.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based war monitoring group, said rebels had withdrawn from their last piece of territory in neighboring Hama province in addition to Khan Sheikhoun.
Asked about discussions with Russia after the attack on the Turkish convoy, Çavuşoğlu said Ankara and Moscow are in dialogue on all levels and Turkey’s chief of general staff, Yaşar Güler, had a phone conversation with his counterpart along with other contacts.
Recalling Russia’s argument that rebels in the region have been attacking its Hmeymim airbase, Çavuşoğlu said: “Russia’s statement that harassment is coming from there is not valid now. It’s quite far away in terms of range”.
Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the ceasefire, launching frequent attacks inside the de-escalation zone. Syrian government forces stepped up military operations against the northwestern region in late April, in an offensive that has killed hundreds of people and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee toward the Turkish border.