Turkey to maintain Idlib observation points, continue operation against Syrian regime – AKP spox

(Updated with Defence Ministry statement in paragraph 4)

It is out of the question for Turkey to withdraw from the observation points in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Spokesman Ömer Çelik told reporters on Monday.

The observation points, “established as legitimate structures as per the Sochi and Astana processes,” continue to defend the no-conflict zone, Çelik said.

Syrian government forces have systematically attacked the observation points, and Turkey has retaliated in full, Çelik said and cited Turkey’s intention to consider regime forces approaching the observation points to be enemy forces and treat them accordingly.

Turkish forces have fired on 115 regime targets, and “neutralised 101 regime elements, damaged three tanks and two artilleries, and struck one helicopter,” according to preliminary reports, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The reinforcements Turkey has sent to its forces stationed in the observation points constitute a military operation, aimed to push Syrian regime forces beyond its violations of previous agreements, Çelik said. “This operation is not to take over any land, but to implement legitimate defence against attacks on our forces.”

“Turkey is determined to protect the de-escalation zone’s status,” Çelik said, due to the country’s need to secure a buffer zone along its southern border to ensure safety of its citizens living in border areas. “We all remember the aggression targeting our lands, targeting Hatay and its districts from Syria.”

“We expect NATO to stand with us regarding the fight against terrorism,” Çelik said. “By nature NATO should show solidarity with Turkey.”

“The world has faced consequences that threaten global security and people’s lives due to the chaos in Syria,” the spokesman said. “It should not be tolerated for certain countries, in their calculations, to turn Libya into another Syria.”

Çelik said General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) have continuously violated the ceasefire after the peace talks in Berlin, and the support Haftar received has allowed for an aggressive stance.

“As ceasefire talks continued, certain countries sending weapons to Haftar has sabotaged the search for a political solution,” Çelik said. “Turning a blind eye to Haftar’s aggression means turning Libya into a second Syria. “