Erdoğan says Syria talks with Russia unsatisfactory, operation 'matter of time'
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) parliamentary group meeting in Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 19, 2020. (AA Photo)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Feb. 19 that talks with Russia on the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib were far from meeting Turkey's demands and warned that a military operation there was a "matter of time".
"As with all [previous] operations, we say 'we could suddenly come one night.' In other words, an Idlib operation is a matter of time," Erdoğan said. He was referring to the previous three Turkish operations to northern Syria since 2016.
"We are entering the last days for the [Syrian] regime to stop its hostility in Idlib. We are making our final warnings," he added. “Turkey has made all preparations to carry out its own operation plans in Idlib."
The president's remarks came during a speech at the parliamentary group meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in capital Ankara.
Erdoğan said Turkey was determined to make Idlib a secure zone "no matter the cost," even as talks continue with Russia, which backs Syria's Bashar al-Assad's forces.
The meetings with Russia have failed to yield results, according to Erdoğan.
"We did not reach the desired results in our talks. The talks will continue, but it is true that we are far from meeting our demands at the table," he said.
Ankara is determined to transform Idlib into a safe place at any cost for the sake of both Turkey and the region's people, the president said.
Turkish and Russian officials held several rounds of talks in Ankara and Moscow. The foreign ministers Turkey and Russia also met at the weekend but failed to find a solution.
Erdoğan has said Turkey has given the Syrian forces until the end of February to withdraw from Idlib.
Ankara urges all parties to act on Sochi deal
In the meantime, Turkey's defense chief on Feb. 19 said that Ankara expects parties in Idlib to conform to their commitments under the Sochi deal with Russia.
“Withdrawing from our observation posts [in Idlib] is out of the question,” Hulusi Akar told reporters before attending AKP's parliamentary group meeting.
Akar said any attack on Turkish observation posts would be retaliated.
"We expect the parties [in Idlib] to rapidly comply with their commitments under the Sochi deal such that a cease-fire could be achieved and bloodshed can be stopped," he said. "We have complied and we expect the other parties to do the same."
The minister also said that the situation in Idlib had a military, security, and defense dimension, adding that “the humanitarian aspect” should be considered as well.
"Millions of people there have left their homes. Children, women and the elderly... they are trying to survive under the rain and snow, in difficult weather conditions,” the minister said, adding that Turkey extended a helping hand to those in Idlib through its military and welfare organizations.