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Turkey to deploy troops inside Idlib as part of Astana deal: Erdogan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Erdogan gestures during an interview with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims his country will deploy troops to Syria’s Idlib region as part of the Astana agreement with Iran and Russia on “de-escalation zones.”

Erdogan said in a Thursday interview with Reuters, “Under the agreement, Russians are maintaining security outside Idlib and Turkey will maintain the security inside Idlib region.”

Turkey, Russia and Iran act as guarantor states in the Syria peace process which has been underway between the Syrian government and the armed opposition in the Kazakh capital, Astana, since January.

In the latest round of the Astana talks last week, the three sides agreed on the details of a fourth de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib Province. In a joint statement, the trio said they had agreed “to allocate” their forces to patrol the zone covering Idlib and parts of the neighboring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo regions.

“The task is not easy ... With Putin we will discuss additional steps needed to be taken in order to eradicate terrorists once and for all to restore peace,” said the president, hinting at cooperation with the Russians in Turkey’s future policies towards Syria.

Erdogan said the “de-escalation” zones would be further discussed in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his trip to Ankara next week.

The de-escalation zones are aimed at separating extremist groups, including Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra from other militants.

The northwestern province of Idlib borders Turkey and is largely under the control of al-Nusra Front Takfiri militants.

Russia strikes terrorists in Idlib

Under Russian air cover, Syrian government forces have been making significant gains against the Takfiri terrorist groups around the province.

On Friday, Russian submarines in the Mediterranean fired cruise missiles at militant positions in Syria’s Idlib Province

The Russia army said the Kalibr missiles targeted militants, ammunition depots and fortifications in an area in Idlib, which dominated by Takfiri al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

The command centers and a training base of the militants were destroyed in the attack, which was launched days after the terrorists targeted members of the Russian military police deployed in the area.

Three Russian servicemen were wounded in the assault, which was repelled with the help of local tribes.

Secession referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

Meanwhile, Erdogan said Turkey was considering counter-measures, including imposing sanctions, against the Kurdish region of northern Iraq over a planned September 25 referendum on the region’s secession from the mainland.

“Without any further delay we are going to discuss what kind of sanctions should be imposed and when the sanctions will be imposed,” Erdogan said without elaborating on the nature of the embargoes.

Turkish troops are also carrying out military exercises near the border with Iraq.

The Turkish head of state further said a cabinet meeting and a national security council session will be held on the planned Kurdish vote on Friday.

Erdogan said on Saturday the resolution on troop deployment abroad will be submitted to parliament for a vote.

The planned vote has drawn sharp criticisms from the central Baghdad government as well as the international community, particularly Iraq’s neighbors.

Turkey has been especially wary of a potential secession of the Kurdistan region from Iraq as it has been over the past decades grappling with pro-independence Kurdish militancy on its soil.


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