On Sunday, officers of the Turkish Army held a meeting with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) officials in Darat Izza town in the northwestern Aleppo countryside, according to Syrian opposition sources.
The Turkish officers entered Aleppo governorate via the Atme border crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border. They were escorted by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters.
Syrian opposition activists said that the Turkish and HTS officials inspected the borders with Afrin city controlled by Kurdish YPG forces in the northern Aleppo countryside. Other opposition activists claimed that the Turkish officers inspected areas near Afrin where Turkey is planning to build military bases.
Several videos that shows the Turkish officers cars entering Aleppo governorate escorted by HTS fighters were published by locals on social media. This is the first evidence of a direct cooperation between the Turkish Army, a member of NATO, and HTS that’s a terrorist organization according to the US and all other NATO countries.
— قناة الجسر الفضائية (@jisrtv) 8 October 2017
— AEJ خليل ้้้้้็็็็? (@AEJKhalil) 8 October 2017
The Darat Izza meeting could be a prove that there is an agreement between Turkey and HTS indeed. However, the meeting could also mean that the upcoming military operation of the Turkish Army and Free Syrian Army (FSA) is mainly aimed against the YPG and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Afrin city, not against HTS in Idlib governorate.
In a related development, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish Army and FSA operation in Idlib governorate is in progress without any problems, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency. Erdogan also said that Turkey will not accept to be “cornered by threats from Syria and Iraq”.
“The process, which began yesterday and was implemented this morning, is continuing without any problem …The efforts there [in Idlib governorate ] are continuing smoothly with our support for the Free Syrian Army,” Erdogan added.
According to opposition sources, the Turkish Army was deployed right on the borderline with Syria. However, Turkish Army units didn’t enter Idlib governorate yet.