Syria has demanded an immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from its northwestern Idlib province, deeming it an aggression against Syrian sovereignty, state news agency SANA reported on Saturday, October 14.
“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the incursion of units of the Turkish army in the province of Idlib, which constitutes a blatant aggression against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and flagrant violation of international law and norms,” a foreign ministry official said in a statement, SANA reported.
“This Turkish aggression has nothing to do with the understandings reached between the guarantor countries in Astana process, it is a violation of these understandings and a departure from them,” the official said, emphasising that Turkey must abide by what was agreed.
The official said that Turkey’s presence in Idlib has “revealed unequivocally the organic relationship between the Turkish regime and terrorist groups,” and called on the international community to compel Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end support for terrorism which it said “contributed to destabilization in the region and the world.”
The General Command of the Turkish Armed Forces said Turkish military personnel began to set up observation points in Idlib on October 12, within the framework of the Astana talks process.
In Astana, Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib. Turkey alongside its Free Syrian Army allies will monitor the zone on the ground with Russia providing air support. Iran and Russia are to control Idlib’s borders.
Idlib is controlled by various groups opposed to Syrian president Basher al-Assad, but significant territory in the province is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist groups headed by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. The alliance includes including many fighters from Turkey-backed Ahrar al-Sham, and is currently led by Abu Muhammad al-Julani, leader of JFS.
The Turkish operation is also directed at the majority-Kurd Efrin Canton which borders Idlib.