Vastavam web: A Turkish army reconnaissance team scouted out Syria’s Idlib province on Sunday, a senior Syrian rebel said, before an expected military operation to impose peace in the bitterly contested Syrian northwest.“When we don’t go to Syria, Syria comes to us,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party. “If we didn’t take our measures, bombs would fall on our cities.”
Although Turkish officials say they are helping the rebels from within Turkey, in past interventions they have also sent troops across the frontier.Any incursion could bring them into conflict with powerful jihadists from al Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, although there were signs on Sunday that they were working to avoid a confrontation.Nonetheless, the jihadists and the Turkish military earlier exchanged fire nearby, underscoring the tension as Turkey builds up its forces and the rebel groups it backs prepare to enter Idlib.
“We will never allow a terror corridor that begins in Afrin and goes to the Mediterranean,” Erdogan said, referring to the stretch of Turkey’s southern border which is controlled on the Syrian side by Kurdish fighters and Tahrir al-Sham.Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stressed the importance of ensuring de-escalation near the border, following an agreement reached in Astana, Kazakhstan last month that was backed both by the Turks and by Russia, which supports Assad.
Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by the former Nusra Front, which was al Qaeda’s Syrian branch until last year when it changed its name and broke allegiance to the global network, has been a formidable military force since early in the conflict.