Erdoğan says Turkey will hit regime forces anywhere if troops hurt
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) parliamentary group in Ankara, Turkey, on Feb. 12, 2020. (AA Photo)
"If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today, regardless of Idlib's borders or the lines of the Sochi agreement," Erdoğan said.
He was referring to the 2018 Sochi deal with Russia. In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The president's remarks came during the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) parliamentary group meeting in capital Ankara.
"We will do this by any means necessary, by air or ground, without hesitating, without allowing for any stalling," he said.
Russia, which has an airbase in Syria, has controlled Idlib's air space for several years.
Erdoğan said Turkey is determined to push the regime forces beyond Turkish observation posts in the northwestern Idlib region by the end of February.
He also said Turkey-backed Syrian opposition have mobilized to push regime forces out of Idlib, but added they must remain disciplined. He also warned the allied opposition not to give regime forces an excuse to attack.
"We have given the message that we will act without compromise to those from the opposition groups who act in an undisciplined way and give the regime an excuse to attack," he said.
Syrian people's fight for freedom is also Turkey's fight, Erdoğan added.
The president also drew the attention of the international community to Syria, saying: "Nobody is safe where the blood of Turkish soldiers is shed. [...] Turkey will use its full force."
"At this point, we will not shut our eyes to excess, radicalism, treason and provocation of someone [in Syria]," he added.
Erdoğan's remarks came after five Turkish troops were killed and five were wounded in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syria on Feb. 10, following a similar attack last week killing seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.
Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and killing some 200 Assad regime troops.
Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
Erdoğan slams main opposition leader over FETÖ remarks
Erdoğan also slammed main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu over his remarks about FETÖ, the group behind the defeated coup attempt of July 2016. Erdoğan said that FETÖ’s political wing is “Kılıçdaoğlu and his team.”
“Kılıçdaroğlu got covered in mud while attempting to throw mud on us. Because the most important political establishment of FETÖ is Kılıçdaroğlu and his team,” Erdoğan said.
Referring to Kılıçdaroğlu’s previous remarks on a former National Security Council (MGK) decision, which declared FETÖ as a terrorist organization, Erdoğan said that he has “his signature under that decision.”
“It is FETÖ who brought you here, how are you even talking?” Erdoğan said.
He also accused the main opposition leader of standing against the government “in every step it took against the FETÖ.”
“The CHP insistently stood by this structure,” he added.
Erdoğan also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu about his stance after the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016. He said that Kılıçdaroğlu “did not lag behind in supporting putschists.”
“Whatever FETÖ said, Kılıçdaroğlu repeated,” he added. “It was FETÖ who advised Kılıçdaroğlu to describe July 15 as a ‘controlled coup’.”
The president also said that the government has “nothing personal” with FETÖ and its cause is to “protect the future of [Turkey].”
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.