The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted local sources and some sources close to Ankara-backed militants in Idlib as saying that despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent statements on the possibility of Turkish Army’s cooperation in Idlib military operations, Ankara is strongly looking for changing Tahrir al-Sham’s face with the aim of blocking military operations against the terrorist group in Northern Syria.
It pointed to Turkey’s intention to pave the way for the survival and stabilization of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at in Idlib province, and said that Ankara has agreed with electricity supply for a group affiliated to Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at amid public unrest over the presence of terrorists in the region.
The sources also said that the Turkish government intends to change the situation in Idlib province to make it similar to the territories occupied by the the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch forces, plans to open the air space of the regions under Tahrir al-Sham’s control to Turkish planes.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran held a fourth trilateral meeting on settlement of the Syrian conflict in the Russian resort city of Sochi on Thursday. According to Ankara, the meeting focused on the situation in Idlib.
Last September, Syrian ceasefire guarantors Russia and Turkey agreed to set up a demilitarised zone in the Idlib de-escalation zone, where a number of armed formations and terrorist groups are still active.
The demilitarised zone was expected to have been established by mid-October 2018 but despite progress in the withdrawal of heavy weapons and militants from the area, the militant groups regularly commit ceasefire violations, shelling nearby provinces.
In a relevant development on Saturday, the Syrian and Russian armies dispatched convoys comprising tanks, artillery canons and heavy military equipment to battlefronts in Hama and Idlib provinces to reinforce their positions for an upcoming operations against Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in Northern Syria.
“The Idlib operations will be conducted in several phases and the main purpose for the upcoming operation is restoring security to villages and towns in areas under terrorists’ control in Hama and Idlib that come under terrorists’ constant missile attacks everyday,” the Arabic-language service of Russian Sputnik news agency quoted a high-ranking military source as saying.