Turkey’s Idlib operation aims to facilitate political process: FM

Turkey aims to ensure clashes are completely prevented in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, which will facilitate the political process in return, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Saturday.

“Astana is a platform which in a way will stop clashes to boost confidence-building measures but our main goal is to revive the Geneva process” Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying by the Anadolu Agency.

The Turkish Foreign Minister noted that intelligence units and troops will evaluate the situation on the ground and will take steps accordingly.

Ankara is currently carrying out a landmark anti-terror operation to prevent a terror-corridor by the PKK’s Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing People’s Protection Units (YPG) by cutting off the Idlib-Afrin corridor through blockading Afrin.

Erdoğan last month said that Turkey would deploy troops in Idlib province as part of a de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia in August.

He referred to the de-escalation zone agreement as a promising idea, under which Russians would be maintaining security outside Idlib and Turkey would maintain the security inside Idlib region.

Turkish-backed forces starting ‘major operation’ in Syria’s Idlib province

Turkish-backed forces are yet to enter Syria’s Idlib province, President Erdogan has said, but a ‘major operation’ is underway.

Turkish-backed forces have started a “serious operation” in Syria’s Idlib, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, but troops had not yet entered the northern province.

Free Syrian Army fighters had reportedly entered Idlib Friday night, according to earlier media reports, but the Turkish president denied Ankara-backed forces had yet entered.

“Today there’s a serious operation in Idlib and it will continue, because we have to extend a hand to our brothers in Idlib and to our brothers who arrived in Idlib,” Erdogan said. “Now this step has been taken, and it is underway.”

Idlib is currently controlled by al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants, and a Turkish military operation into the province has been expected for some time.

It is not clear what role the Turkish military will play in the operation.

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

“We will never allow a terror corridor along our borders in Syria… We will continue to take other initiatives after the Idlib operation.”

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham took over the province in July, forcing Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army and Ahrar al-Sham fighters to flee over the border to Turkey.

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.

Ankara has been expected to take up the supervision of a ceasefire in Idlib province, as part of the Turkish-Iranian-Russian sponsored de-escalation programme in Syria.

Turkey has also launched an operation in northern Syria with FSA rebels known as Euphrates Shield, waging war against Islamic State group militants and Kurdish fighters close to the Turkish border.

Idlib has been subject to a ferocious bombardment by Russian and Syrian regime aircraft with scores killed in heavy bombing.