UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH PRESIDENT; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Ali Murat Alhas and Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) - The Turkish president on Friday expressed concern on recent developments in the embattled Idlib province in northwestern Syria, saying they were an indication that the Syrian regime did not comply with cease-fire deals initiated by Turkey and Russia.
"[Idlib] is clear proof that the regime does not comply with the steps we have taken regarding the cease-fire," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, referring to a cease-fire that began early Jan. 12, succeeding an oft-violated de-escalation deal reached in September 2018.
Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone, where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
Since then, more than 1,300 civilians there have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces as the cease-fire continued to be violated.
Over 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the last year.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to some 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.
Erdogan reminded that he will be in Berlin, Germany on Sunday and they are planning to discuss the Idlib issue in depth with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of Berlin peace process.
Since last September, several high-level meetings were held in Berlin to put an end to the Libyan conflict.
The meetings were held with the participation of France, Italy, Germany, and the U.K. The negotiations are known as the Berlin peace process.
- Northern Syria car bombing
Erdogan also said Turkey would not let a deadly terrorist car bombing in northern Syria "go unanswered" after it martyred three Turkish soldiers while conducting road controls in the anti-terror Operation Peace Spring zone.
“We will make them pay for this in a very different, very heavy way,” he said.
Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
On Oct. 22, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists would pull back 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Turkey’s border with Syria, and security forces from Turkey and Russia would mount joint patrols there.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.
Referring to the situation in Libya, where Turkey supports the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) against renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, Erdogan said Haftar was not "trustworthy."
"They continued to bomb Tripoli yesterday," he said.
Erdogan added that the issue will be discussed in Berlin thoroughly, and said: “We will see what they will do after one or two days” following the meeting.
He also said he hopes that they would keep their promise as Turkey will be following up the situation.
Since the ouster of late 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 other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
On Jan. 12, the warring sides of the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by Erdogan and Putin.
But talks for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement on Monday after Haftar left Moscow demanding two days to consult with local Libyan tribes for their approval, while the head of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj signed the deal.