Turkish defence ministry says no ceasefire violations in Idlib

No violations have occurred since the Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire went into effect in Syria’s embattled Idlib province, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said as relayed by a ministry statement on Saturday.

“We will continue to be a deterrent force against ceasefire violations,” Akar said, following his visit to border units in the Hatay province. “There have been no violations whatsoever since the ceasefire went into effect.”

Turkey will continue to retaliate attacks against its observation points and positions in Idlib “in the harshest terms within the boundaries of legitimate self-defence,” Akar continued.

Citing the right to self defence in the United Nations Charter Article 51, Akar said Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been active in Idlib within the framework of previous peace talks with Russia, namely the Adana, Astana and Sochi accords.

“We as a guarantor country have fulfilled and continue to fulfil all our responsibilities that arise from mutual agreements,” Akar said.

Russia and Turkey on Thursday instated a new ceasefire for Idlib, which went into effect at midnight, following months of intensified conflict and nearly a million people were displaced.

Following the ceasefire agreement, Turkish and Russian military vehicles were reported to start patrols along the strategic M4 highway, the centre line of a buffer zone between Syrian government forces and Idlib’s rebel groups. The joint patrol mission was initially scheduled to launch on March 15.

Turkey wants to end the bloodshed in Idlib as soon as possible in the aftermath of the Feb. 27 airstrike, which resulted in the death of at least 36 Turkish soldiers, Akar said.

A Russian delegation will visit Ankara “early next week,” the minister said, adding that Turkey expects “a permanent ceasefire, an end to bloodshed, and the establishment of conditions for the return of over one million innocent people deprived of their homelands, 81 percent of whom are women and children.”