Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his military would strike Syrian government forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt, after 13 troops were killed by Syrian forces in a week.
The announcement followed recent deadly attacks by Assad regime forces on Turkish troops holding the existing cease-fire, as well as attacks on Idlib civilians, sending hundreds of thousands of them flocking to the nearby border with Turkey.
In return, Moscow accused Ankara of failing to honour the 2018 deal, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the Turkish side "had taken upon itself an obligation to neutralise terrorist groups" in Idlib.
Violence has flared in Idlib, just south of Turkey's border, in recent weeks as regime forces backed by Russian Federation and Iran have made gains in their campaign to eliminate the last opposition bastion after the country's nine-year war.
February 10, it became known that the government forces in Damascus carried out the shelling of a Turkish observation object in Idlib.
"If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today, regardless of the lines of the Sochi agreement or Idlib".
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Under the bilateral agreement, radical groups were required to withdraw from a demilitarised zone in the Idlib region. "We stand by our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday after five Turkish troops were killed by Syrian shelling on Monday. The Turkish leader pointed out that the Russian and Syrian military strikes in Idlib province on civilians. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Erdoğan also spoke by phone on Wednesday.
The Turkish presidency confirmed the call but did not provide details.
The response of the Syrian army in the face of the current Turkish attacks is a "historic" act that aims to prevent "the re-emergence of a new Ottoman monster", he added.
Turkey has doubled down though, insisting Syria will not be allowed to have Idlib, and risking direct war with both Syria and Russian Federation to make it happen.
Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million Syrians, fears a further influx of refugees fleeing violence in Idlib.