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Erdogan says Turkey will not withdraw from Syria’s Idlib until attacks by Damascus stop

Erdogan says Turkey will not withdraw from Syria’s Idlib until attacks by Damascus stop
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed not to remove Turkish troops from Syria’s Idlib region and said that his upcoming phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin will help Ankara determine its policies.

A phone call between the two leaders to discuss Idlib is expected to take place on Friday evening. “The result of this conversation will determine our attitude” in the area, Erdogan said. The Turkish leader stated that Ankara will not pull its forces out of Idlib while operations by the Syrian government continue there.

Unless the regime [in Damascus] stops its attacks in Idlib, it is not possible for us to withdraw.

Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province is the last-remaining major stronghold controlled by the forces fighting against the Syrian government. Some of these forces are jihadist groups and some are militants backed by Turkey. The situation on the ground deteriorated dramatically in recent weeks as the Syrian Army renewed its push against what it said were terrorists attacking Syrian troops and personnel. Turkey, meanwhile, accused Damascus of bombing civilians and shelling its soldiers.

Also on rt.com Reports of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of civilians heading to Turkish border because of hostilities in Idlib not true – Russian MoD

On Thursday, militants backed by Turkish artillery launched a counterattack against the Syrian Army in Idlib’s eastern countryside, but were repulsed with the help of Russian airstrikes. Ankara said that two of its servicemen were killed in airstrikes that day. Speaking on Friday, Erdogan claimed his troops “neutralized” around 150 Syrian government soldiers along with a dozen tanks and 14 self-propelled guns. Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported that “dozens” of terrorists were killed in the failed attack on Syrian positions.

Erdogan said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed holding a four-way meeting in Istanbul with Putin on March 5, and he still has not received Russia’s answer to that.

Moscow has been accusing Ankara of failing on its promise to remove the jihadist groups from the Idlib ‘de-escalation zone’ set up by Russia and Turkey. The Russian military said on Friday that the terrorists were using civilians as human shields, preventing them from leaving the combat zone through humanitarian corridors established by Moscow.

Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria urged Ankara to avoid further bloodshed by “stopping its support for terrorists and arming them.”

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