Published: Mon, October 09, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Erdogan Says Turkey-Backed Militants in New Operation in Syria's Idlib

Erdogan Says Turkey-Backed Militants in New Operation in Syria's Idlib

"There is a serious operation in Syria's Idlib today, and this will continue", Erdogan told party supporters on Saturday morning.

"We intend to further enhance our steps in providing safety to Idlib now".

Rebels of the FSA rode on trucks through Turkey and crossed the Syrian border on Saturday, while Turkish troops fully equipped with tanks and other weapons assembled at the border, awaiting orders to enter Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on October 7 an operation to retake Idlib, a province under rebel control in northern Syria, amid a reported military buildup on the border between the two countries.

Erdogan said Turkey would not desert civilians in Idlib and would not allow a "terror corridor" in northern Syria.

Turkey's top military brass, along with the country's head of intelligence, were in Reyhanli and met with field commanders in the area, according to a Turkish Armed Forces statement.

After his talks with Erdogan in Astana on September 28, Putin said that Moscow and Ankara had reaffirmed readiness to implement the final agreements reached in mid-September in Astana about four de-escalation zones, including the largest one in Idlib. There are no known plans by the Kurdish forces to take on al-Qaida-linked militants in Idlib.

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Appearing to confirm this, Erdogan said: "Idlib is a region where we will provide protection in the inside and Russian Federation on the outside".

Turkey has been building up its forces close to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for weeks, in anticipation of a military operation into the territory. The zone would be monitored by Turkish soldiers. At the same time, the Turkish military could launch an operation within Idlib.

Turkey has long opposed any political transition under him, but Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war shored up the president after years of Turkish and US insistence that he must go.

The agreement came despite Russian Federation and Iran backing President Assad and Turkey wanting him gone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel came under enormous pressure from her rivals to sharpen tone towards Turkey, particularly due to the arrests of around 10 German citizens, including a reporter and a human rights activist, for alleged support for terrorist organisations.

Three of the safe zones have been created to date in Syria's central province of Homs, in the Eastern Ghouta area of the southern Rif Dimashq province, and a southwestern militant-controlled stretch along the border with Jordan.

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