14:17 GMT19 February 2020
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    ANKARA (Sputnik) - Ankara will take decisive retaliatory measures should the Syrian Arab Army threaten its observation posts in the Syrian province of Idlib amid an uptick in violence in the region, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence said in a statement on Tuesday.

    According to the ministry statement, Syrian government forces are continuing a ground and air offensive despite a January 12 ceasefire. The intensification of hostilities in the region is also causing significant numbers of civilians to flee the region, the statement said.

    "Any attempt to endanger the security of our Observation and Control Points operating within the scope of the Astana and Sochi Accords will be responded to in the strongest manner without any hesitation based on the right of self-defence," the statement read.

    On Tuesday, a Syrian military source said that government forces regained control of the strategically important city of Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province. The Russian Defence Ministry's centre for Syria reconciliation announced on Saturday that three humanitarian corridors have been opened to provide care for those seeking to leave the Idlib de-escalation zone.

    A large portion of the Idlib de-escalation zone, which was one of four safe zones established under an agreement reached at the May 2017 Astana-format talks, is still controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* terrorist group.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a military memorandum in the Russian city of Sochi in October that created an 18-mile safe zone on the Syria-Turkish border and enforced regular military police patrols to facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from northern Syria.

    *Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.

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