Damascus’ plan to launch a military operation in Idlib province, the last major terrorist bastion in Syria, pose great risks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
“The regime has decided to attack Idlib… We agree with the exit of the terrorists, but the operation would aim to occupy Idlib province and this entails great risks,” Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
Turkey’s foreign minister said he hopes to examine the situation at the tripartite summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran scheduled for September 7 in Tehran.
“If there are terrorists in Idlib, we must decide together how to separate them [from the armed opposition], but that does not mean that the whole province should be bombed,” Cavusoglu said.
Idlib province was occupied in 2015 by armed groups, primarily jihadists and especially the terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front who are affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In early 2015, jihadist forces mobilized in Turkey after being armed and trained in the country, and launched an offensive against the Syrian Army, where they overran government-held positions. Since then, with Turkish support, the province has become a jihadist stronghold.
However, in September 2015 the Russian air force intervened in the Syrian conflict. Since then, the Syrian Army has liberated huge swathes of the country, especially around Damascus, in the southern of the country, and ISIS-held parts of the country. With victory after victory occurring, the Syrian Army, with Russian backing, are now making final preparations to liberate the province from jihadist forces.
Part of this massive mobilization includes the Syrian Army’s elite Tiger Forces, 4th Mechanized Units and Republican Guards who have vast experience in not only dealing, but with annihilating jihadist forces throughout Syria. With the imminent liberation of Idlib province, the only areas left out of Syrian government control will be small pockets of ISIS in eastern Syria and areas held by US-backed Kurdish forces.