Claimed assurance comes day after Russia pressed Turkey to accept pro-Assad airstrikes and ground attacks
Opposition activists claim that the Turkish military has given assurances against any pro-Assad offensive on Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
According to the activists, Turkish officers at an observation post in neighboring northern Hama Province told local elders that there will be no ground assault.
The officers added that Turkey has no intention of withdrawing from Idlib, the last major opposition territory in Syria and home to about 2.5 million Syrians, many of them displaced from other parts of the country.
The officer in charge said anti-aircraft weapons have arrived at Turkey’s 12 observation posts, ringing Idlib Province and parts of northern Hama and western Aleppo,
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the situation in Idlib, almost all of which has been held by the opposition since spring 2015. Lavrov used the pretext of “extremists” to call for a breaking of the “de-escalation zone” declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran last year, but Çavuşoğlu pushed back, “We need to determine these terrorist and eliminate them with intelligence and military forces. It would be a massacre to bomb Idlib, civilians, hospitals, schools just because there are terrorists.”
Local sources said the Turkish officers reiterated on Wednesday that Çavuşoğlu told Lavrov, “Locate for us the terrorists’ positions and we will deal with them.”
Early this year, after a pro-Assad offensive seized a slice of southeast Idlib Province, Turkey set up the observation posts. Russian and regime forces have continued bombing and bombardment just outside the rings, including attacks last Friday that killed more than 30 civilians.
Turkey, which hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, is concerned about another wave of displaced Syrians caused by an assault.