Turkish observation posts in Syria's Idlib region will remain in place and function despite being encircled by Syrian government forces, a Turkish security official said on Friday, a week after Ankara and Moscow agreed a ceasefire deal.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria's war, agreed on March 5 to halt military activity in the northwestern Idlib region after an escalation of violence displaced nearly a million people and brought the two sides close to confrontation.
The deal addresses Turkey's main concerns - stopping a flow of migrants and preventing the death of more Turkish soldiers - but also cements recent gains by Syrian government forces and leaves Turkish posts encircled.
Around 60 Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes in the region since last month, but the ceasefire has largely held since March 5.
Turkey set up a dozen military observation posts in the Idlib region under a 2018 agreement with Russia, but most of those are now in areas held by the Syrian government. Ankara had previously warned that it will push back Syrian forces from the area if they do not withdraw, but it has not yet done so.
"There are no issues regarding the observation posts. There are no violations (of the ceasefire) against observation posts either," a Turkish security official said. "These observation posts will continue to carry out their duties," he said, adding that no heavy arms or equipment would be withdrawn from there.
"The point of the observation posts is to end the bloodshed and humanitarian drama. The step taken on March 5 should be seen as a move for this. There is no such thing as 'an agreement was signed on March 5 so everything is finished', it has just been frozen," the official told a briefing in Ankara.
Under the agreement, Turkish and Russian forces will carry out joint patrols along the M4 highway linking Syria's east and west, and establish a security corridor on either side of it.
A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks on the details of the deal.
The official said talks with the Russians, which were slated to conclude on Thursday, would end on Friday, and had been "positive". He said the first joint patrol would be held on Sunday as planned and that "what is necessary" will be done against any groups trying to deter these.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Turkey, which has backed some Syrian rebel groups, would not shy away from even stronger military action in Idlib if the ceasefire is broken.
The Turkish official also said on Friday that "necessary intervention" would be made against groups aiming to violate the ceasefire.