Turkey Backing Syria Rebels in Idlib to Prevent Clashes Completely: Minister

Turkey Backing Syria Rebels in Idlib to Prevent Clashes Completely: Minister

"What is also possible is a joint operation between Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the terrorists". "He is a famous commander, and his militant group is allied with the militants of the Al-Nusra front but only in their fight against the regime", he said. He said the plan is to also foil "foreign projects" that aim to occupy the north of Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorism, in an apparent reference to the USA -backed Kurdish forces.

Turkish forces have clashed with Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham fighters in Idlib province on the Syria-Turkey border, activists and a monitor reported.

By joining the Idlib mission, Turkey is "de facto agreeing to the transition of power for Assad", Talha Kose, an analyst with the Ankara-based Foundation for Political and Social Research, said at a conference on Syria in Istanbul on Thursday.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Turkey was implementing a deal agreed with Russian Federation and Iran to reduce violence in Syria's northern province of Idlib, in cooperation with Free Syrian Army rebel fighters.

"We are taking new steps to ensure security in Idlib".

Tehran, Moscow and Ankara announced a deal last month to establish and patrol a "de-escalation" zone in the Idlib region, where Erdogan has said Turkey will deploy troops.

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The Turkish president made the remarks at the 26th semi-annual consultation and assessment meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey's western city of Afyonkarahisar on Saturday, describing the operation as being "serious".

The move, which had been rumoured for weeks, comes as Turkey along with Russian Federation prepares 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.

He also claimed Turkey would be prepared to work with Green politician Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin and a fierce critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Three of the safe zones have been created to date in Syria's central province of Homs, in the Eastern Ghouta area of the southern Rif Dimashq province, and a southwestern militant-controlled stretch along the border with Jordan.

Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate was once a key ally for many rebels but they are now abandoning it as the jihadists face a Turkey-backed operation in its stronghold.

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