Turkey continues to shoulder its responsibilities to maintain the ceasefire and stability in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
During a ministry briefing to journalists, answers were given to questions about the latest situation in Idlib and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) observation points in the region following the recent meeting in Sochi between the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
The ministry sources said Turkey is abiding by its obligations set out in previous agreements to preserve the ceasefire and ensure peace and security in the region.
“There is no change in our vantage points or our activities in the area,” the sources said.
Ministry sources have also drawn attention to the fact that the number of Syrians returning to Idlib – where peace and security have been assured after activities carried out following the March 2020 agreement – is over 400. 000.
Asked about the resumption of joint patrols between the Turkish Armed Forces and the Russian Armed Forces, the ministry said: “Our coordinated work with the Russian Federation continues.”
Putin and Erdoğan welcomed their three-hour meeting in Sochi last week to discuss the Syrian conflict, calling the exchange “useful” and “productive”.
It was the first face-to-face between the two leaders in 18 months. The Russian leader welcomed Erdoğan to his Black Sea residence in the resort town of Sochi after two weeks of self-isolation following a coronavirus outbreak among his aides.
The pair, who did not speak to reporters after the talks, were due to discuss northwestern Syria, where Assad regime troops and Moscow have stepped up airstrikes in recent weeks.
Earlier in the day, Erdoğan told Putin he believed there were great benefits in “Turkey and Russia having stronger relations with each passing day.”
“The steps we have taken with Russia regarding Syria are of utmost importance,” Erdoğan said. “Peace there depends on Turkey-Russia relations.”
“Negotiations are sometimes difficult – but with a positive end result,” Putin told Erdoğan.
He added that they “learned to find compromises favorable to both parties”.
Russia and Turkey have historically had a complex relationship, balancing regional rivalries with the search for common ground over economic and strategic interests.
In recent years, the two powers have clashed particularly over Syria, where Moscow and Ankara support opposing sides in the civil war.
In Syria last year, they sponsored a ceasefire agreement in the northwest region of Idlib, home to the last major opposition groups in northwest Syria.
Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
The ministry also stressed that the Turkish Armed Forces will continue to protect the rights and interests of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, and will continue to be the guarantor of peace and security on the island of Cyprus in accordance with international guarantees and alliance agreements.
“Despite all our calls within the framework of good neighborly relations, Greece continues its actions that violate the status of the demilitarized islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea in violation of international agreements. Since the beginning of 2021, it has committed 1,989 violations against the demilitarized islands to status with its maritime and air military vehicles,” he added.
Pointing out that there has recently been an increase in Greece’s arms activities, the ministry said: “It is considered that Greece, which is reflected in open sources, is trying to create a balance against Turkey with its growing arms activities. The necessary attempts are through diplomatic channels against the illegal, provocative and aggressive attitude of Greece. And the necessary response is given on the ground within the framework of reciprocity.”
“We expect our neighbors to act in accordance with the requirements of international law, reason, logic, fairness, humanitarian and civil standards, and show a sincere attitude in favor of the resolution of problems by peaceful methods based on good-neighbourly relations and through dialogue.”
Greece has often been embroiled in tensions with neighboring Turkey over a range of issues, from competing claims over the Aegean’s hydrocarbon resources to the demilitarization of the islands. Its burgeoning weapons program is designed to counter Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, against which France is one of the few EU states to have offered public support in recent months.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by European Union member Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that such excessive claims violate sovereign rights. of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Both sides cite a series of decades-old international treaties and agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding issues in the region through international law, good-neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations. Instead of choosing to resolve the problems with Ankara through dialogue, Athens has repeatedly refused to sit down at the negotiating table and has chosen to rally Brussels to harden its position against Turkey.