Turkey starting 'serious operation' in Syria's Idlib

Operation Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said pro-Ankara Syrian rebels were launching a new military operation in Syria's northwestern Idlib province to push out jihadists controlling the region.

Late on Saturday, Turkey deployed tanks and military vehicles on the its Syrian border, building up military presence, a Reuters witness said.

The operation is linked to a deal agreed earlier this year by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russian Federation and Iran to implement four so-called "de-escalation zones" in Syria. (2017). Turkey starting "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, says Erdogan.

Turkey should rely on the moderate rebels in Idlib, including the Free Syrian Army, to fight the Islamic militants and avoid any unilateral military action that could be construed as violating the terms of the agreement, said Kose.

The Turkish president said the operation in Idlib is the follow-up of the Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, which was launched on August 24, 2016, in a bid to clear Turkey's border of the Islamic State (IS) militants and other terrorists.

Idlib is mainly controlled by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by a former branch of al-Qaeda, and has seen a big influx of civilians from other war-torn regions.

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HTS is not party to a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran for the safe zone in the province, one of four such "de-escalation" zones across Syria.

The Observatory reported "heavy exchanges of fire", but said the incident did not appear to mark the start of the operation Erdogan described on Saturday.

"We are now in the process of taking further steps towards securing Idlib after expanding the Euphrates Shield Operation".

Ankara's relations with Berlin has been strained since the defeated coup attempt in Turkey previous year as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for failing to show strong solidarity with the Turkish government against the attempted military coup.

"For now the Free Syrian Army is carrying out the operation there", Erdogan said.

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. "It is a very risky area - Turkey may face a backlash from moderate rebels if it can't deliver humanitarian services" and may also "come under pressure" from Russian Federation and Iran to eliminate militants, he said.

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