By Betul Yuruk
NEW YORK (AA) – Turkey's UN Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu warned Thursday of a severe punishment against Syrian regime aggression in Idlib.
Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, Sinirlioglu said Bashar al-Assad wanted to draw Turkey into "his dirty war by deliberately targeting" Turkish military forces.
"Any military aggression targeting Turkey’s security and Turkish soldiers will be severely punished," said Sinirlioglu. "We will never hesitate to use our right to self-defense. I am not drawing a red line here. This is a warning."
He asserted that Turkey believes in a political solution in the war-torn country and it is working with the UN for a settlement there.
"But Turkey will never tolerate any belligerent act," he added.
On Monday, Syrian regime forces attacked Turkish troops, resulting in the deaths of seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian personnel. In retaliation, the Turkish military targeted more than 50 positions and neutralized more than 70 Syrian regime troops, according to Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Meanwhile, Russian-backed Syrian forces advanced through Idlib province Thursday in a brutal ground offensive that was preceded by weeks of intensive aerial bombardment which emptied whole towns of terrified civilians.
Since March 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed by the Syrian regime and millions have been displaced, besieged and denied humanitarian and medical aid.
Turkey is hosting nearly 4 million Syrian refugees.
"This is almost one fifth of the entire population of Syria before the start of the conflict. All this is because the tyrant in Damascus refused to meet the legitimate demands of the Syrian people," said Sinirlioglu.
He said "terror groups established their own states in Syrian territory because the tyrant in Damascus would not allow Syrian people to enjoy their basic rights."
The Turkish envoy said Turkey expects the regime and its supporters to withdraw from their current positions by the end of this month.
"And we expect from all our friends and from all the responsible members of the international community to respect our legitimate security concerns," he added.
*Servet Gunerigok in Washington contributed to this story