Turkey may act to reverse Syrian army gain near border
Ankara is likely to take action to counter the Syrian military and allied groups on choking up a supply link on which militants relied to get weapons and logistics.
Syrian troops and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters have retaken the town of Azaz, located to the northwest of Aleppo, prompting Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hint at deployment of ground forces to the region.
Asked if Ankara might act to reverse the gains, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (seen below) said on Friday, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” Turkish paper Hurriyet reported.
Analysts say major militant groups are on the verge of total collapse in Syria’s strategic Aleppo province in the face of army advances.
Most of Aleppo’s eastern neighborhoods are now controlled by government forces and allied fighters. Takfiri groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, along with smaller militant outfits, are mainly active in the western parts of the city.
Aleppo’s liberation would deal one of the most serious blows to militant groups that have been fighting there over the past five years.
Fabrice Balanche, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute think tank, said militants could no longer cling to their ambition “to make Aleppo and the (neighboring) Idlib province the base of a ‘free Syria.’”
“That’s over,” he told the AFP news agency recently.
Militants have relied on the Azaz corridor to supply Aleppo with munitions and other fighting materiel which itself is covertly supplied from Turkey.
The loss of this route means that militants within the Aleppo urban area will have to source their supplies from much further afield, hampering their ability to rapidly re-arm.
Following the recent losses, there have been reports that Turkey is planning to intervene directly in the Syria conflict.
Such reports are driven by repeated assertions by Turkish government officials that they plan to establish a safe zone in northern Syria for civilians and likely favored militant groups.
Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had seen evidence of “a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active action in Syria.”
It published a number of satellite images which Russia claims showed a build-up of Turkish armed forces along certain areas of the Syrian border.
While these images are far from conclusive, when combined with earlier evidence of Turkey clearing mines along the Syrian border, they show at the very least that Ankara is keeping its options open with respect to military intervention.