- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2020

Turkish officials on Friday rejected reports that the country was pulling back from its military incursion into northern Syria, even as Ankara insisted it was honoring a recent cease-fire deal brokered with Russia.

Previously planned deployments into the contested Syrian province of Idlib are continuing, and no Turkish troops are being recalled, the Turkish defense ministry said in a statement Friday.

“Reports by some media organizations about withdrawals of our troops from the region do not reflect the truth,” the ministry said.

AMN al-Masdar News, citing Syrian opposition activists, said this week that Turkish forces had withdrawn from two major towns in Idlib following the latest Syrian attack that killed two Turkish soldiers and wounded a third.

With Russian-backed Syrian forces advancing on the last major rebel-held region of the country in Idlib, Moscow and Ankara on March 6 negotiated a cease-fire designed to curb the fighting until a lasting deal could be negotiated. Turkey has been supporting Syrian rebel factions and also fears a flood of new Syrian refugees should the troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad overrun the province.

Mr. Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Idlib in a phone call Friday, Syria’s official news agency reported.

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