Erdogan says Turkey working with Syria rebels to implement Idlib accord

"Since we do not allow any operations against our own country, we will also not allow any operations against the territorial integrity of our neighbors", he said.

IS seized vast areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday Turkey was implementing a deal agreed with Russian Federation and Iran to reduce violence in Syria's northern province of Idlib, in cooperation with Free Syrian Army rebel fighters.

The move follows talks which took place in Astana and brokered deals aiming at ending the Syrian conflict. (2017). Turkey starting "serious operation" in Syria's Idlib, says Erdogan.

Earlier this week, sources from Turkey-backed opposition in Idlib, who spoke to TRT World on condition of anonymity, said that Iranian observers will be positioned along the southern borders of Idlib to create a practical buffer zone between Syrian regime forces and the opposition forces.

The campaign against HTS has been the subject of weeks of speculation, and is linked to plans to implement a so-called "de-escalation zone" in Idlib province and surrounding areas.

The province is dominated by jihadist groups and Mr Erdogan has said he will not allow a "terror corridor" on the Turkish border.

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If Russia and Turkey launch a joint military operation in the Syrian province of Idlib, mostly controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group led by the al-Nusra Front, there will be a major military victory that would also pave the way for the political settlement of the crisis, experts told Sputnik.

In the city's central districts security will be provided by the Turkish Armed Forces, while Russia's Armed Forces will ensure safety on the outskirts, according to the president.

The Turkish army was opening passages enough for the entry of military vehicles into Idlib. It said the operation was yet to formally begin.

"We deny any involvement of the Russian air forces in the upcoming Syrian Free Army operations".

"When you enter a boxing match, you don't count how many punches you will throw", Erdogan said.

A rebel commander participating in the operation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP in Beirut that "all the rebel groups" who took part in Euphrates Shield are participating in the latest operation. Turkish soldiers are expected to join the operation later, he said.

President Erdogan refused to provide details on the extent of Turkish military deployment in Syria. The three countries agreed in May to be guarantors of a cease-fire to help end the six-year civil war in Syria.

  • Megan Austin