REVISED HEADLINE, DECK, UPDATED WITH MORE ERDOGAN REMARKS
By Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey is resolved to stop the Assad regime's attempts to violate a cease-fire in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib, Turkey’s president said on Tuesday.
"We are determined to stop the regime's attempts to violate the cease-fire -- ourselves if needed. This is no joke. Everybody should see and accept that Turkey definitely does what it says," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's parliamentary group in the Turkish capital Ankara.
"I hope the cease-fire lasts," Erdogan said, referring to the cease-fire that began early Sunday, succeeding an oft-violated de-escalation deal reached in September 2018.
Noting that previous cease-fires in the Idlib province were broken by the regime, he said: "This time, the situation is different."
Erdogan stressed that 400,000 Syrians must be returned to their homes under the cease-fire, Erdogan said.
He urged the international community to discuss the Syrian regime's use of violence.
Turkey pushed hard for a cease-fire in Idlib after the region endured months of battering by forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime and its allies, sending about a million civilian refugees flocking towards the Turkish border.
Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which 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 one million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the last year.
- ‘No adventurism, imperialism”
Erdogan also said that Turkey has no plans for adventurism in Syria, Libya, or the Mediterranean.
"Most particularly, we do not have any imperial designs ... We only aim to protect the rights and future of ourselves and our brothers," he said.
If Turkey hadn't stepped in, putschist Libyan leader Khalifa Haftar would have occupied Libya, trapping its people in “claws of persecution,” Erdogan warned.
On Jan. 2, the Turkish parliament ratified a motion authorizing the government to send troops to Libya.
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: the Government of National Accord (GNA) in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
"We will closely follow the preferences between the putschist Haftar and the country's legitimate government. If attacks on the legitimate government and our brothers in Libya continue, we will not shrink from giving Haftar the lesson he deserves," he added.
After gathering in Moscow to sign a cease-fire deal Monday, the GNA signed onto the deal, while Haftar left Moscow without signing anything, said Erdogan.
On Jan. 12, the warring sides in the Libyan conflict announced a cease-fire in response to the call of Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.