Turk­ish army sets up posts in Idlib

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

ANKARA: The Turk­ish army has be­gun set­ting up “ob­ser­va­tion posts” in Syria’s largely ji­hadist-con­trolled north­west­ern Idlib prov­ince as part of its ef­forts to cre­ate a deesca­la­tion zone, the mil­i­tary said yes­ter­day.

“On Oc­to­ber 12 [Thurs­day], we be­gan ac­tiv­i­ties to es­tab­lish ob­ser­va­tion posts,” the mil­i­tary said in a state­ment, af­ter lo­cal me­dia re­ported that Turk­ish troops and ar­moured ve­hi­cles en­tered Idlib prov­ince late on Thurs­day.

Idlib is largely con­trolled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by al-Qaeda’s for­mer Syria af­fil­i­ate, which ousted more mod­er­ate rebels in re­cent months.

Over 100 sol­diers, in­clud­ing spe­cial forces, and 30 ar­moured ve­hi­cles en­tered Idlib, Turkey’s Hur­riyet daily re­ported yes­ter­day, as it spec­u­lated more troops could be sent to the prov­ince over the next few days.

The Turk­ish army is back­ing pro-Ankara Syr­ian rebels, who will need to oust HTS mem­bers in the area to al­low Ira­nian, Rus­sian and Turk­ish forces to im­ple­ment the de-es­ca­la­tion zone.

The move comes af­ter the Turk­ish army launched a re­con­nais­sance mis­sion on Sun­day as part of ef­forts by Turkey, along with Rus­sia and Iran, to set up the zone in line with ac­cords in As­tana peace talks aimed at end­ing the Syr­ian civil war.

They agreed on four such cease­fire zones in Syria as a pre­lude to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Three zones are al­ready in place — in Eastern Ghouta near Da­m­as­cus, in cen­tral Homs and in parts of south­ern Syria — which are be­ing mon­i­tored by Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights con­firmed late on Thurs­day that a mil­i­tary con­voy of Turk­ish forces en­tered Idlib be­fore head­ing to­wards the western part of Aleppo prov­ince.

The fourth de-es­ca­la­tion zone in­cludes Idlib but also parts of the neigh­bour­ing Latakia, Hama and Aleppo re­gions.

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