Turkey says major operation underway in Syria's Idlib

What's going on in Idlib

During a meeting in Kazakh capital Astana on May 4, the guarantor countries - Russia, Turkey, and Iran - signed a deal to establish de-escalation zones in Syria.

Turkish-backed forces have started a "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, but troops had not yet entered the northern province.

"There is a serious operation in Syria's Idlib today, and this will continue", Erdogan told party supporters on Saturday morning.

The military operations are expected to be held jointly with troops of the Free Syrian Army.

Last month, Turkey agreed with Iran and Russian Federation to establish de-escalation zones in northwestern Syrian province as part of the Astana peace deal.

"Regarding the fate of terrorists after the liberation of Idlib, there could be several scenarios - some groups may integrate into the Syrian military, some other groups may continue minor activities in certain areas or lay down their arms in exchange for some political concessions", Orhan said.

The state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen and said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey's government.

The move, which had been rumoured for weeks, comes as Turkey along with Russian Federation prepares to set up a so-called "de-escalation" zone in Idlib in line with accords in peace talks in Astana aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

He pointed out that bringing peace to Syria requires both military and political actions, and now there are three countries, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, that can resolve the Syrian crisis.

Turkey said on Thursday that it was prepared to carry out a cross-border operation to retake Syria's northern city of Afrin when necessary.

Security in Idlib will be provided by Turkey with Russia, Erdogan said Saturday, without elaborating further. Turkey has supported and backed rebels that seek the toppling of Assad.

Moscow has been carrying out air raids in support of its ally Damascus targeting both ISIL in Deir Az Zor province and rival groups led by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.

Idlib and swaths of land in Syria's northern and northwestern regions are largely held by the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist outfit, spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name previous year from the Nusra Front to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

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