Turkey says major operation underway in Syria's Idlib

Operation Idlib

Erdogan told reporters after the meeting that Russian Federation supports the operation from the air while supported by Turkish soldiers from within the Turkish border. Erdogan announced on Saturday that Turkey was conducting an anti-terror operation in Syria's Idlib.

Erdogan said the operation, part of a de-escalation deal agreed between Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation, will involve Free Syrian Army groups crossing into Idlib supported by Turkish soldiers from inside Turkey's borders.

The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) is bracing to enter Syria's northwestern province of Idlib in the next hours, activists said Saturday.

The province is dominated by jihadist groups and Mr Erdogan has said he will not allow a "terror corridor" on the Turkish border. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

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Turkey's top military brass, along with the country's head of intelligence, were in Reyhanli and met with field commanders in the area, according to a Turkish Armed Forces statement.

The US maintains that the group is still linked to al Qaeda, however.

The newly launched operation is regarded as a strong push for establishing the fourth zone, to be set up in Idlib.

Deploying Russian and Iranian observers could potentially be a controversial issue, considering that the Syrian opposition, backed by Turkey, views the two countries as enemies due to their support for the Syrian government.

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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.

The Observatory reported "heavy exchanges of fire", but said the incident did not appear to mark the start of the operation Erdogan described on Saturday. The three countries agreed in May to be guarantors of a cease-fire to help end the six-year civil war in Syria.

Moscow has been carrying out air raids in support of its ally Damascus targeting both ISIL in Deir Az Zor province and rival groups led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.

Commenting on the coordination with Russia, Erdogan said: "Relations with the regime is something looked after by Russia, and we have taken measures in other areas".

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