Ankara, Beirut – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a “major military operation” in Syria’s northwestern province Idlib.
The offensive is led by rebel factions belonging to the Free Syrian Army but with the support of Turkish forces and Russian air support to fight off Tahrir al-Sham factions, among which is al-Nusra Front.
“There’s a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib today and it will continue,” Erdogan said in a speech to his AK Party on Saturday, adding that Turkey would not allow a “terror corridor” on its border with Syria.
“For now the Free Syrian Army is carrying out the operation there,” he said. “Russia is supporting the operation from the air, and our armed forces from inside Turkey’s borders.”
Late on Saturday, Turkey deployed tanks and military vehicles on the its Syrian border, building up military presence, a Reuters witness said.
Erdogan told reporters after the meeting that Russia supports the operation from the air while supported by Turkish soldiers from within the Turkish border.
“As for the Russians, they will not have a role in the areas of our control at all. The role of the Russians is limited to areas under regime control,” he said.
Ankara, Moscow and Tehran announced a deal last month to establish and patrol a “de-escalation” zone in the Idlib region, where Erdogan has said Turkey will deploy troops.
Turkey’s foreign minister said late on Saturday that Turkey aimed to prevent clashes in Idlib.
“Russian and Iranian observers will be in some regions here, and we will have our observers inside Idlib. Of course they will be in safe places so there will be no risks,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.
More so, Erdogan said that his country is currently taking a new step to achieve security in Idlib as part of its efforts to expand the scope of the “Euphrates Shield”.
He pointed out to the presence of serious action currently taking place in Idlib to achieve security.
In the same context, the Turkish army deployed a large number of special forces and armored military vehicles, which were sent over the past week to the town of Reyhanlı, a town and district of Hatay Province, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, near the country’s border with Syria.