ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president on Monday accused the Syrian government of taking advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic to increase attacks in rebel-held northwestern Syria in violation of a truce.
In an address to the nation following a Cabinet meeting, Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to take action if the alleged Syrian government violations in Idlib province continue.
“Turkey remains committed to an agreement that it reached with Russia and will not give way to the (Syrian) regime’s aggression,” Erdogan said.
“Should the regime, which has violated the cease-fire and other conditions of the agreement, continue in this way, it will pay a price with heavy losses,” he added.
Erdogan’s comments came amid reports of limited Syrian violations and exchanges of fire between troops and Turkey-backed opposition forces, though the truce appeared to be mostly holding.
The cease-fire deal was brokered on March 5 between Russia and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. The deal halted a three-month Syrian government offensive into the country’s last rebel stronghold. That Russia-backed offensive killed hundreds of civilians and displaced nearly a million people in Idlib province. Turkey backs some of the opposition groups in Idlib.
In addition to stopping the fighting, the agreement called for pushing militants out of a buffer zone on either side of a vital highway that runs through rebel territory.