ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish Army on Saturday deployed massive reinforcements to its outposts on the border with Syria in preparations to send forces into the latter's al-Qaeda-controlled Idlib province as a part of a deal with Iran and Russia to de-escalate conflict there.
Commando units, military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, construction machines and army ambulances arrived in Turkey's southernmost town of Reyhanli in Hatay Province, reported state-funded Anadolu Agency.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters his army was not in Idlib but Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions Ankara supports against his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad's rule were active in the area.
"Currently there is a serious operation in Idlib and it will continue," Erdogan said without further elaboration on the details.
Toward the evening, his Turkey's Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar along chiefs of ground and air forces and the Head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) went to Reyhanli for inspection of army units there.
Both Akar and Fidan were accompanying Erdogan during his visit Thursday to Iran where they met with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Loudspeakers in the Cilvezgozu border crossing between Hatay-Idlib were playing Turkish national anthem and military songs, said the agency.
It was last month when Ankara agreed with Syrian regime's two primary sponsors, Russia and Iran, to create zones of de-escalation by deploying troops in Idlib where armed Islamist groups allied with al-Qaeda hold sway.
Then Erdogan sat down with Rouhani during Russia-led Syria talks in the central Asian nation, Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.
"In accordance with the agreement reached by the three guarantor states of the Astana meetings, observers from the three states will be deployed at the checkpoints and observation posts to be established in the security zones which will constitute the borders of the de-escalation area," said a press release on the Turkish ministry's website.
Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev said his country, Iran and Turkey will each send about 500 observers to Idlib, and the Russians will be military policemen.
Damascus lost the area in 2015 to the Islamist opposition groups.
The agreement defined Turkey as the guarantor of the Idlib opposition, whereas Tehran and Moscow were that of the Damascus government.
A clear timeline for the commencement of the trio's Idlib plan remained announced.
The observers’ mission was to prevent clashes between “the regime and the opposition forces."
Ankara already controls a pocket of land since 2016 in northern Syria that acts as an obstruction in front of Kurdish ambitions of uniting the isolated Afrin region north of Idlib with the rest of the self-declared Kurdish-led autonomy in the country's north.
Editing by Ava Homa