Turkey must withdraw immediately, Syrian Foreign Minister says
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad confirmed that Damascus considers Turkey’s presence in Syria an act of occupation and wants to see Ankara withdraw its forces immediately. Mekdad stressed that Turkish troops must leave, highlighting that Syria considers their presence a violation of its sovereignty. “The main cause of the escalation in the Idlib region is the Turkish occupation and the support given by Turkey to terrorist groups,” Mekdad said on Wednesday. “Turkey should withdraw immediately, and the international community should support Syrian efforts in liberating the occupied territories in the north of the country.”
Mekdad’s remarks emerged on Wednesday as Turkey deployed additional troops in north-western Syria, ahead of an upcoming meeting between Turkish officials and leaders of Russia and Iran next week. Turkey has maintained its presence in Syria for a long time, with largely static fighting positions for over a year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin entered into a truce between Turkish and Syrian forces. Recently, Putin called the continued presence of foreign troops in Syria the “main problem” in ongoing developments, underlining the urgent need for such troops to withdraw from the region.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov added that the continued presence of American troops in eastern Syria would amount to a de facto partition of the war-torn nation. U.S. troops have been deployed into Syrian territories since late 2015. Idlib remains the last major stronghold of Syrian militants, who have intensified their attacks on the positions of government troops in recent weeks.
Two weeks ago, an attack on Turkish troops in the Syrian province of Idlib left two soldiers dead and three wounded. According to a note from Ankara, the assault took place following a search and control operation in the Idlib area, identifying the dead soldiers as infantry non-commissioned officers.
Idlib is also the last stronghold of terrorists in the Syrian civil war. Turkish and Russian troops patrol some parts. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a bomb attack on a Turkish convoy occurred on the road between Idlib and Binnish, adding that Turkey evacuated wounded soldiers by helicopter. A group known as Supporters of the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, already responsible for previous attacks on Turkish forces, claimed the offense.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar traveled to the Syrian border to meet military commanders. It is clear that Turkey’s presence in Syria, as in Libya, only prolongs the crisis and destabilizes the country, now under the control of the Damascus government represented by Bashar Al-Assad.