Turkey will not withdraw from its observation posts in the Syrian rebel bastion province of Idlib, which has seen an increase in violence amid intensified fighting between the Syrian army and extremist groups, AFP reported.
The posts were established under a September 2018 deal between Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels.
The Syrian army surrounded one of 12 Turkish observation posts in Idlib province last week after overrunning nearby areas in a push to take the last opposition holdout, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in comments published on Sunday on the defense ministry’s Twitter account.
“We will by no means empty those 12 observation posts, we will not leave there,” Akar said.
His comments came during a visit, together with top army commanders, to the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border to inspect Turkish troops on Saturday.
Turkey, worried over a new wave of refugees from the Idlib region, is pressing for a fresh ceasefire deal, as it sent a delegation to Moscow last week.
The latest violence has displaced more than 235,000 people and killed scores of civilians, despite an August ceasefire deal and international calls for a de-escalation.
The Idlib region hosts some 3 million people including many displaced by years of violence in other parts of Syria.
“As long as this pressure remains in place, it will trigger a new migrant wave and put further burden on Turkey, which is already hosting nearly 4 million Syrian brothers,” said Akar.
“The Turkish Armed Forces are ready for whatever task is given in order to protect our country and people’s interests,” Akar said.