Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that an operation in the Syrian province of Idlib was imminent in what he said was a “final warning” to the regime in Damascus, which is currently engaged in a Russian-backed operation to take control of one of the last rebel outposts.
Erdogan’s speech to members of his hardline AKP party came after Russia-Turkey talks on Idlib fell short of a concrete conclusion on Tuesday, reports Efe news.
“Now we are giving our last warnings. The operation in Idlib is only a matter of time,” he told his political allies.
Turkey has insisted that Assad’s forces stay outside the so-called de-escalation zone, an area earmarked for a cessation of violence under the auspices of Ankara and Moscow
Last week, Erdogan said that Turkey has “no intention to invade or annex the Syrian territory”.
Turkey’s defence minister, Hulusi Akar, had previously warned that Turkey was not ready to give up its observation posts in Idlib province.
In response to Erdogan’s remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said a Turkish invasion of the province, the majority of which is controlled by groups opposed to President Bashar Al Assad, would be the “worst scenario”.
“We are not considering the worst scenarios right now. This would not be the best possible scenario.”
On January 18, Erdogan addressing to the media in Istanbul and said, “It is a clear proof that the Syrian regime does not comply with the steps we have taken regarding the cease-fire” while referring to the latest airstrikes carried out by the Syrian forces in Idlib, the country’s last rebel-stronghold province.
Earlier, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed groups also launched a ground offensive in Aleppo province, a designated de-escalation zone, forcing at least 13,000 more civilians to move toward Turkey’s border.
The war in Libya, where Turkey is sending troops in support of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord, and the conflict in Syria, where Ankara and Moscow are both militarily involved, are also set to dominate the summit as well.
Turkey launched a cross-border assault on Kurdish fighters after the US decided to withdraw troops from Syria, a move that was criticised by the Republicans, with some terming it a “betrayal” of the Kurds.
The Syrian army entered the city of Tabqa in the northern countryside of Raqqa province, as part of its move to enter Kurdish-held areas to counter the ongoing Turkish assault in the region.
More than 50 people, including civilians, have been killed last week as the Turkish offensive in Syria, which was launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at pushing the Kurdish forces away from its border.
(With inputs from agency)