ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey will not move the military observation post in northwest Syria that a Turkish convoy was trying to reach when it came under attack during an offensive by the Syrian army, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.
An air strike on the Turkish military convoy on Monday killed three civilians as it was heading south towards the observation point, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
“Right now we don’t have an intention such as moving this elsewhere,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. “It will carry on with its mission,” he said, adding that necessary security and military measures were being taken.
The observation point was one of 12 set up by Turkey in northwest Syria under an agreement with Russia and Iran aimed at reducing fighting in Syria’s northwest. Moscow and Tehran strongly support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, while Turkey backs some rebel fighters in the region.
Cavusoglu said Turkey was in contact with Russia “at every level” following Monday’s incident to implement a ceasefire in the Idlib region of northwest Syria.
“We will do whatever is necessary for the security of our own soldiers and observation posts,” he added.
Syrian government forces stepped up military operations in the area four months ago. The offensive has killed hundreds of people and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee towards the Turkish border.
Turkey fears the fighting will trigger a further influx of Syrian refugees, 3.6 million of whom already live in Turkey.
The Turkish Defence Ministry said the convoy which came under attack on Monday had been sent to keep open supply routes and ensure the safety of the observation post, which could become cut off by the latest Syrian army offensive.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Syrian rebels had withdrawn from several positions in the last 24 hours. Those who had stayed behind in the area had gathered at the Turkish military position in the town of Morek, it said.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Dominic Evans