Turkish troops deployed in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib had been ordered to respond to any attack by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) after coordinating with the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) and al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on October 2.
According to the London-based monitoring group, Turkey also ordered the NFL and HTS not to shell government-held areas around Greater Idlib before informing its liaison officers.
The Turkish military maintains more than 60 posts, camps and bases throughout Greater Idlib. A day earlier, the SOHR revealed that the Turkish military deployed mortars and anti-tank guided missiles in these positions. Prior to that, self-propelled howitzers were deployed in the region.
According to the SOHR, Turkish artillery units are deployed in Greater Idlib as follows:
- Heavy towed artillery at Binnish military post in eastern Idlib;
- Rocket launchers and self-propelled howitzers at Taftanaz base in eastern Idlib;
- Rocket launchers and self-propelled howitzers at Almastumah camp in southern Idlib;
- Self-propelled howitzers at Sarmin military post in eastern Idlib;
- Self-propelled howitzers at Abian military post in western Aleppo;
- Rocket launchers, heavy towed artillery and anti-aircraft guns at Mount Ayyub military post in southern Idlib;
- Self-propelled howitzers at Baluon military post in southern Idlib;
- Rocket launchers and heavy towed artillery at al-Tawameh military post in northeastern Idlib.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to reach a new agreement on Greater Idlib during a meeting that was held in the Russian resort city of Sochi on September 29.
Official Turkey sources alleged that the two leaders had agreed to maintain the status quo in the region, where HTS remains the de-facto ruler. Nevertheless, some Syrian observers believe that the SAA is preparing to launch a ground operation in the region with support from Russia.
In a recent interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, Turkey’s presidential spokesman praised the role Turkish forces are playing in Greater Idlib.
“Some of our European friends criticize us for deploying troops in Syria. However, this should please them. We keep people in areas we control. Only because Turkish soldiers are in Idlib, 2.5 million people are not fleeing the region,” said Kalin.
Kalin didn’t mention that the region is being ruled by an al-Qaeda affiliate, or explain Ankara’s long-term plan for the region.
A ceasefire agreement on Greater Idlib that was brokered by Russia and Turkey on 5 March 2020 is barely holding up. The situation in the region is spinning out of control. Yet, Ankara appears to be determined to continue shielding HTS, the NFL and other militias occupying the Syrian region.
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