Turkish Forces Gather in the Countryside of Aleppo, Syria

Clay Curtis
February 13, 2020

The Turkish troops are in Idlib - a ceasefire zone, under a deal between Turkey and Russian Federation - as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has threatened Bashar al-Assad with direct military action if any more Turkish troops are harmed in escalating fighting over Syria's last rebel stronghold.

The offensive - which has retaken numerous towns and a crucial motorway - has killed hundreds of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for safety in harsh winter conditions.

The tensions over Idlib highlight the complexity of ties between the two countries, whose rivalry stretches back into their imperial pasts and has been characterized by centuries of mistrust.

Violence has flared in Idlib, just south of Turkey's border, in recent weeks as government forces backed by Russian Federation and Iran have made gains in their campaign to eliminate the last insurgent bastion after the country's nine year war.

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"If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today, regardless of Idlib's borders or the lines of the Sochi agreement", Erdogan said, referring to a 2018 ceasefire accord.

"Also, perhaps first and foremost, we're talking about the fight against terrorism that the Syrian Armed Forces are waging on the territory of their country", Peskov said, answering a reporter's question on a possible USA intervention in the Syria conflict.

But "all these groups are mounting an attack on the Syrian army from Idlib and are acting aggressively towards Russian military installations", he added.

Turkish media reports that President Erdogan personally ordered the attack on the Syrian helicopter. The Syrian state news agency Sana quoted a source at the foreign ministry as saying his "empty statements" were "disconnected from reality".

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