Turkey to stay at posts in Idlib, Syria: Defense chief
Defense chief Hulusi Akar (R) visits Hatay to conduct inspections.
Turkey will definitely stay at its observation posts monitoring a cease-fire in northwestern Syria, and its soldiers there have orders to respond to any acts of hostility, said Turkey's defense chief on Dec. 28.
"In no way will we evacuate 12 observation points heroically carrying out their mission of ensuring the cease-fire; we are not going to leave," Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told army commanders in Hatay, a southern Turkish province bordering Syria.
His remarks came in the wake of attacks by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian-backed forces which have sent some 47,000 people fleeing Idlib, Syria -- where the observation posts are located -- towards Turkey's borders.
Akar said the troops at these observation points have been ordered to respond without hesitation if they are attacked or harassed.
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 the regime and Russian forces in the de-escalation zone as the cease-fire continues to be violated.
Over a million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to the intense attacks in 2019.
According to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Idlib province is home to around 3 million civilians, 75 percent of them women and children.
Turning to the possibility of Turkey sending troops to Libya under a new security pact if the country's Government of National Accord (GNA) requests it, Akar said: “Our army is ready to protect Turkey's rights and interests whether at home or abroad.”
Since the ouster and death of ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.
On Nov. 27, Ankara and Libya's GNA signed two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On April 4, Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces based in eastern Libya, launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli from GNA forces.
According to the UN, over a thousand people have been killed since the start of the operation and more than 5,000 injured.