Turkey says will not withdraw from army posts in Idlib

ANKARA: It is “out of the question” for Turkey to evacuate its military observation posts in Syria’s Idlib, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday, after Russian and Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of targets in the northwestern province.
Turkey has 12 such posts in Idlib, and at home it hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world. It fears another wave from the region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory after a nearly nine year civil war.
“We respect the agreement reached with Russia and we expect Russia to abide by this agreement,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in comments published on Sunday on the defence 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.
Syria’s President Bashar al Assad has vowed to recapture Idlib, prompting a recent wave of refugees towards Turkey’s border.
Police in the Turkish capital Ankara detained on Tuesday five IS suspects for allegedly planning attacks onNew Year’s Eve, state news agency Anadolu reports.
The suspects are foreign nationals linked to the extremist group’s ranks in Syria and Iraq, the report said, without elaborating further.
Anadolu said the police raids continued and that more could be detained.
The report comes amid increased security measures nationwide ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations. More than 317,000 security staff are deployed for the celebrations across the country.
— AFP/dpa