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Erdogan: Idlib operation is largely complete

October 25, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his meeting with the governors at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on 12 October 2017 [Turkish Presidency/Yasin Bulbul/ Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced yesterday that his forces, which recently entered the Syrian city of Idlib to enforce a de-escalation zone, have “largely completed” their mission, according to Anadolu Agency.

Turkish troops entered the Syrian city earlier this month in order to implement the terms of the agreement with Iran and Russia, decided during peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan in September. The deal aims to reduce the fighting between opposition groups and government forces.

During the deployment, Turkish troops were expected to set up more than 10 observation posts in Idlib. Russia has been tasked with doing the same in outlying areas.

Turkey’s intervention is also motivated by Ankara’s desire to secure their borders against the threat of Kurdish militants, which have largely allied with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Erdogan also alluded to the fact that he would direct his troops onto the neighbouring region of Afrin, an area controlled by the YPG (People’s Protection Unit), the political wing of the Kurdish militia group, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). Turkey considers both groups to be terrorist organisations.

Read: Turkey plans to establish eight army bases north of Syria

Turkey’s presence in Syria, with the backing of Russia and Iran, caused controversy among opposition groups fighting the Assad regime. However, reports from the ground indicate that after some initial clashes, many groups have supported Turkey’s efforts, in an attempt to stem further infighting among rebel factions.

Media agency Syria Deeply also reported this week that Al-Qaida affiliated group Hayat Tahrir Sham (HTS), which controls several areas of Idlib, had made some concessions to Turkey to facilitate their entrance. Turkey is considered more concerned about monitoring Kurdish influence in the region, than exerting their influence over Syrian opposition groups.

The Syrian government meanwhile has repeatedly rejected Turkey’s presence in the country, demanding that troops leave immediately, labelling the intervention a “flagrant aggression”.

Read: Turkey says Kurdish militant banner in Raqqa shows US sided with terrorists