Turkey is working to transform Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, into a political party, a source in the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) revealed on February 8.
“Turkey is trying to handle the Nusra matter in Syria’s north, and they [the Turks] want to make this group a political group, like Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the source told the Russian news agency, Sputnik.
As a part of Turkey’s alleged plan, HTS will be integrated into the National Syrian Army (NSA). The terrorist group is already discussing the integration process with the Turkish-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary.
“Under the Turkish plan, Nusra will be involved in the national army in the north, which Turkey is trying to build now … There are meetings between the Coalition and Nusra Front to agree upon arrangements for the merger and formation of a new army in the Syrian north” the source said.
The NSA is deployed in the Turkish-occupied areas in the northern Aleppo countryside. The force will likely spearhead a possible Turkish operation in northeastern Syria following the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. forces.
A day earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that HTS and other terrorist groups are considering creation of the unified command in order to start preparations for a large-scale military operation.
Local observers believe that Ankara’s plan to refurbish HTS can be only stopped by a military operation in the governorate of Idlib, where strongholds of the terrorist group are located.
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