Erdoğan announces start of Idlib operation

Erdoğan announces start of Idlib operation

Erdoğan announces start of Idlib operation

Earlier Saturday, Erdogan said the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is now engaged in operations to secure Idlib while Turkish soldiers are "not there yet".

Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed earlier this year to create a series of "de-escalation" zones in Syria, including Idlib, as part of moves to end the Syrian civil war.

Turkey earlier this year wrapped up its months-long Euphrates Shield operation in Aleppo province that involved both the Turkish army and Syrian rebels. Today we have a serious operation in Idlib and this will continue.

The Turkish army has always been reinforcing its military deployment on the Syrian border in case of a threat to its territory.

"We will absolutely not allow the creation of a terror corridor along our borders", said Erdogan in his speech.

"We are taking new steps to ensure security in Idlib", he said.

HTS has pledged to keep fighting Syrian regime forces and their allies, casting doubt on the de-escalation agreement, but Ankara has worked to lure militants from it, and two groups have defected from the alliance.

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The push on Saturday comes as Turkey along with Russian Federation and Iran prepare to set up a so-called "de-escalation" zone in Idlib province, in line with deals in talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

Idlib had been a centre of fighting between Russian Federation and Iran-backed regime forces and Turkey-backed opposition forces until July this year when Hayat Tahrir Al Sham took control of a large part of the province.

Idlib and surrounding areas in north-west Syria are among the largest strongholds for rebels fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, but it is now largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate.

It seems aimed at curbing the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, Syria's strongest jihadist group apart from Islamic State, and at securing Turkey's frontier.

Following his speech, Erdogan answered questions of journalists, "not yet in TSK Idlib, Öso re", he said.

Air raids on insurgent-held towns in that area in recent days were intense, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the strikes were probably carried out by the Syrian air force, which has been carrying out an intensifying bombing campaign against opposition targets in Idlib province alongside aircraft from ally Russian Federation. Turkey, however, has backed rebels seeking Assad's ouster.

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