• Turkey-backed rebels in new Syria operation – Erdogan


    ISTANBUL: 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. The move comes as Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, prepare to set up a so-called “de-escalation” zone in Idlib in line with accords in peace talks in Astana aimed at ending the Syrian civil war. Turkish commando units and military vehicles have reportedly massed on the border but are yet to cross, in what will be Ankara’s second major Syria operation after its Euphrates Shield incursion last year. “We are taking new steps to ensure security in Idlib. Today, a very serious operation is ongoing in Idlib and this will continue,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the western city of Afyon. He later told reporters the operation was led by Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels and that the Turkish army was “not yet” operating inside Syria. Aron Lund, fellow with The Century Foundation think tank, told AFP any Turkish operation “is likely to rely on a mix of Turkish and Syrian forces.” He said Turkey would contribute special forces, logistics, artillery and tanks but Syrian rebels would make up “much of” the ground force. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late Saturday that the aim of the operation was to “completely” prevent clashes in the region and speed up the political process in line with the Astana talks, NTV television said.


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