Turkish-backed forces starting 'major operation' in Syria's Idlib province

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the operation, part of a de-escalation deal agreed between Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation, will involve Syrian rebel groups crossing into Idlib supported by Turkish soldiers from inside Turkey's borders.

The Turkish army is backing the FSA from within Turkey's borders, while Russian forces are providing air support to the operation, he said.

The Turkish president said the major offensive was the follow-up of the so-called Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, which was launched in August previous year without granting any permission from Damascus, in a declared objective of clearing Turkey's southern border of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Already tense relations took a turn for the worse after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown on his opponents following a failed coup attempt a year ago, Reuters reported.

The plan to enforce a de-escalation zone in Idlib involves deploying Turkish special forces and observation points, according to Sejari, from the Turkish-backed Al-Mutasim Brigades.

"We will ensure safety in Idlib, and will cooperate with Russia", Yildirim said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in central Afyonkarahisar province.

Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen over the July 2016 putsch, in which more than 240 people were killed. There are no known plans by the Kurdish forces to take on al-Qaida-linked militants in Idlib.

"Turkish forces are not on Syrian soil yet", Abdulrahman said, adding that army was firing artillery shells across the border, while the rebel alliance attacked a Turkish military base.

Media reports have pointed to a heavy deployment of military hardware and personnel by the Turkish army to its southern border area in recent weeks.

Turkey has been moving military equipment to its border with Syria since June 21.

He also claimed Turkey would be prepared to work with Green politician Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin and a fierce critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate was once a key ally for many rebels but they are now abandoning it as the jihadists face a Turkey-backed operation in its stronghold.

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