Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is accusing the Syrian government of trying to expand its field of control in Idlib province in violation of a Russian-Turkish cease-fire brokered last September.

Akar called on Friday for the government attacks to be halted. He made the comments during a visit to Turkey’s border with Syria where he inspected troops, together with the country’s top military commanders.

Rebel groups are battling Syrian government forces to regain territory they lost in the northwest area of Idlib earlier this week.

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2018 file photo, fighters with the Free Syrian army exit a cave where they live, in the outskirts of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur, Syria, west of the city of Idlib. (Ugur Can/DHA via AP, File)
FILE – In this Sept. 9, 2018 file photo, fighters with the Free Syrian army exit a cave where they live, in the outskirts of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur, Syria, west of the city of Idlib. (Ugur Can/DHA via AP, File)

The latest wave of fighting is the most serious challenge to the cease-fire.

Akar said, “the Syrian regime must end attacks south of Idlib and withdraw to the boundaries delineated under the Astana Process,” in reference to the Turkish-Russian cease-fire agreement.

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