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Turkish military op in Idlib only 'matter of time’, Erdogan warns Damascus

Hot-head President Erdogan seems to be threatening a full-scale invasion of Syria, which would risk major conflict between Russia and the United States. Erdogan is obsessed with the idea of heading up a new Ottoman Empire. These ambitions and Turkey's geographical location make him susceptible to manipulation by restless world powers with a variety of geopolitical interests in the region. We republish this article from where it first appeared on 19 Feb, 2020 09:14.

A new Turkish military incursion into Syria’s Idlib governorate has been planned and may start at any moment, President Recep Erdogan has warned, ramping up a tense standoff with Damascus.

Ankara will not “leave Idlib to the Assad regime and its backers,” Erdogan vowed, referring to the Syrian government and, apparently, to Russia and Iran. Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, he said his words were “a final warning.”

The Turkish president also said negotiations with Russia over Idlib have so far failed to meet Ankara’s demands. He said he wanted the province to be safe for Turkey, “no matter the cost.”

The northwestern Syrian province bordering Turkey is the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in the protracted civil war. Ankara backs some of the armed groups in the area, but there is also a strong presence of jihadists, who have no interest in a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Under an agreement with Russia, Turkey is supposed to use its leverage in Idlib to curb violence and prevent attacks on other parts of Syria.

The arrangement never fully worked, with Damascus regularly complaining about cross-border militant attacks. Its response was to gradually take control over some parts of the province, forcing jihadists to retreat. Since last month the advancements put Syrian troops in direct opposition to Turkish forces, which have been deployed in Idlib to monitor the situation. At least two clashes between them have resulted in casualties among the Turks, angering Ankara.

Moscow is mediating in the situation to prevent it from boiling over into a major confrontation. Erdogan has demanded that Damascus pull back its forces from Idlib and threatened to use the Turkish army to force a retreat if necessary.

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