Tur­key’s Mil­i­tary Re­in­forces On Bor­der With Syria’s Idlib


ANKARA (Reuters) - Turk­ish troops and tanks car­ried out mil­i­tary ex­er­cises on the bor­der with Syria on Satur­day, state-run me­dia re­ported, while a mon­i­tor­ing group said a Turk­ish con­voy had crossed the fron­tier into north­ern Syria.

Tur­key’s mil­i­tary sent tanks and ar­moured ve­hi­cles to the bor­der in the sec­ond day of re­in­force­ments near the prov­ince of Idlib, the last ma­jor rebel strong­hold in Syria.

On Fri­day, a Turk­ish se­cu­rity source said the Turk­ish army had been ro­tat­ing forces in and out of the re­gion, and de­clined to say whether the lat­est move­ment was in prepa­ra­tion for an op­er­a­tion in­side Syria it­self. The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a U.K.-based mon­i­tor­ing group, said a Turk­ish con­voy had en­tered Syria.

Is­lamist fight­ers have tight­ened their con­trol over the Idlib re­gion fol­low­ing more than a week of fight­ing with Tur­key-backed Syr­ian rebels.

The rise of the ji­hadist Hayat Tahrir al Sham has raised doubt over the fu­ture of a deal agreed in Septem­ber be­tween Tur­key - which has sev­eral mil­i­tary ob­ser­va­tion posts in Idlib - and Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s main ally Rus­sia to avert a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment army as­sault. The agree­ment re­quires banned Is­lamist groups to be ex­pelled from a frontline buf­fer zone.

The es­ca­la­tion in Idlib comes as U.S. forces pre­pare to with­draw from a sep­a­rate re­gion of north­ern and east­ern Syria. Ear­lier on Satur­day, the Turk­ish de­fence min­is­ter, chief of gen­eral staff and the in­tel­li­gence agency head vis­ited bor­der mil­i­tary units and dis­cussed “mea­sures to es­tab­lish peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

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