Syria demands immediate Turkish withdrawal from Idlib

Author: Menekse TokyayMon, 2017-10-16 03:00ID: 1508092776629839700ANKARA: Damascus is demanding the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of Turkish troops from Syria’s northwest province of Idlib.
Turkish troops entered Idlib Thursday night as part of Ankara’s commitments under the Astana deal brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey last month. The deployment aims to enforce a “de-escalation zone” in the province.
The Turkish mission — composed of about 100 soldiers, including special forces, as well as armored vehicles and tanks — is tasked with establishing 14 observation posts.
This is the second time Turkey has entered northern Syria to strengthen its border security. Last year, Ankara launched Operation Euphrates Shield, mainly targeting Daesh and Syrian-Kurdish forces.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry source said the Turkish presence is an “aggression” that has “nothing whatsoever to do with the understandings reached by the guarantor countries in the Astana process,” and is “a violation of these understandings and a departure from them.”
Serhat Erkmen, a Middle East expert at the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute, told Arab News: “At this stage, such a reaction from the Assad government doesn’t mean much. It matters if Russia gives a similar statement.”
Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News: “Following the Astana talks, the Syrian government demanded that Turkey ask for permission to deploy in Idlib, but… when the Astana deal was concluded, the Syrian government gave indirect approval.”
Agar said Damascus’ accusations against Turkey are meant to placate its own constituency. “The presence of Turkish soldiers in Syria aims to support the stabilization process that supports Syria’s unitary state structure. Ankara has no designs on Syrian territory,” he added.
The Turkish deployment in Idlib is not aimed against pro-Damascus forces, but against the extremist alliance Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) that dominates the province.
But Agar said government forces would likely retaliate against any attack from rebel-held areas in Idlib, complicating stabilization efforts.
Ankara fears that the collapse of the de-escalation zone could create another refugee influx into Turkey.
During a news conference in St. Petersburg on Saturday, Turkey’s Parliament speaker Ismail Kahraman said his country and Russia are in close contact over Syria.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: TurkeyIdlibSyriaAnkaraErdoganrelated_nodes: Syria demands ‘immediate’ withdrawal of Turkey troops: SANATurkey starting “serious operation” in Idlib says Erdogan

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