President Erdogan’s speech to members of his hardline AKP party came after Russia-Turkey talks on Idlib fell short of a concrete conclusion …. Reports Asian Lite News
Thousands of Syrian refugees face a bleak future as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan preparing to send more troops to Idlib. The living conditions in the crisis-hit Syrian city is next to horrible.
The Turkish president said that an operation in Idlib was imminent.
Erdogan said this 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 on Wednesday 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.
However, in recent weeks, Assad’s troops have been pushing into Idlib and the western Aleppo countryside from the south, prompting tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
“We will end the aggression of the (Assad’s) regime,” Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding: “We will not leave Idlib to the regime and those who support it.”
He added that he had discussed the topic on Wednesday with US President Donald Trump.
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.”
The Carter Centre, which has undertaken the conflict tracking project Mapping Syria, said Syrian Army troops and allies have captured roughly half of the de-escalation zone.
Save the Children and UNICEF said that around 500,000 children had been forced to flee their homes since December to escape an offensive launched by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces.
Turkey has launched several military incursions in the north of Syria. It trains Syrian militias to spearhead ground operations.
Russia’s aerial support is often credited with turning Assad’s fortunes around.
Aleppo Airport Reopened
The Syrian government has reopened the Aleppo airport after it was closed down nearly eight years ago.
The reopening came after regime forces, backed by Russian troops, re-took control of Aleppo’s countryside from rebels earlier this week, in the northwest of the war-ravaged country, reports Efe news.
Transport Minister Ali Hammoud told a group of accompanied journalists aboard the first flight to Aleppo from Damascus that the international airport “is one of the most important in Syria”.
He added the airfield was “ready to start receiving airplanes and passengers from and to Aleppo”.
“The airport used to have a capacity of 2.5 million passengers annually, which shows the economic activity of Aleppo,” Hammoud explained.
In December 2012, civilian flights were suspended after the opposition captured the city during an offensive.
The Syrian army regained control of the city four years later and authorities started refurbishing the key airport in the country’s second-largest city.
Work is also underway to reopen the M5 highway linking Damascus to Aleppo, which has been completely seized in the past few days for the first time since 2012.
Syria and Russia started an offensive in April 2019 to capture the opposition’s last stronghold in Idlib and western Aleppo.
Idlib and western Aleppo are mainly under the control of former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, considered a terrorist group by Damascus and Moscow.
Last month, Syrian government forces backed by Russian planes captured Idlib’s Maaret al-Nouman, which had been under the
control of insurgents since 2012.
The military campaign forced 900,000 people to flee their homes in the northwest triggering the worst wave of displacement since the start of the war in Syria in 2011, according to UN figures.
The army offensive is taking place despite a ceasefire agreed by Russia and Turkey in Idlib earlier January.
Moscow is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Ankara supports some rebel groups.