At the beginning of Turkey's Idlib operation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country’s army forces are supporting a full-scale military operation, which has just begun by the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), aimed at seizing areas controlled by former al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
Yet, from the statements of Erdogan Turkey's real target on the way to Idlib is very likely to be Kurds. “Today a landmark operation is underway in Idlib, and this will continue. We will never allow a terror corridor along our Syrian border,” Erdogan said referring to Afrin.
“We need to cleanse Afrin of the structure there called the YPG terrorist organization,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party.
Afrin is the western-most canton of Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed forces of the YPG.
Turkey’s army began setting up observation posts in Idlib this month under a deal with Russia and Iran to reduce fighting between insurgents and the Syrian government, but the deployment was also seen partly aimed at containing the YPG militia.
Idlib and swaths of land in Syria’s northern and northwestern regions are largely held by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name last year from the Nusra Front to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
“We have to help our brothers who arrived in Idlib after fleeing Aleppo. We won’t let them down. The necessary step was taken and it is ongoing. We will never allow the formation of a terror corridor along our border with Syria,” Erdogan said, adding that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were currently supporting the FSA from within Turkey's borders, while the Russian air force was providing air support to the operation “protecting outside the borders (of the Idlib region).”
However, the situation is totally changed when Assad claimed his place in the Idlib operation. Syria's army and its allies pressed further into the country's largest remaining rebel stronghold, capturing a town and several villages as they approached a military airport, a pro-Damascus media unit and a war monitor reported.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday he should stop Syrian attacks on its opposition in northern Syria if he wants peace negotiations to succeed, Turkish presidential sources said.
Turkey called the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask the envoys to urge the Syrian government in Damascus to end the border violations in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Turkey has accused the Syrian government of using the presence of the Nusra Front, which now fights under the banner of the Tahrir al-Sham alliance, as an excuse to attack civilians and moderate opposition groups.
However, Turkey's support for so-called moderate rebels like Free Syrian Army likely to stir up more trouble.
Citing the photos released by pro-opposition activists, pro-president Bashar al-Assad news outlets claim that Faylaq Al-Sham and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been supplied with Turkish manufactured Type Dragon armoured vehicles to combat the Syrian Army in Idlib.