Turkey takes extra measures on Syria border over Idlib
ANKARATurkey has been taking additional measures along 150 kilometers of the Syrian border following recent developments in Idlib, control of which has passed to extremist groups, amid concerns that a military operation by Russia and the Syrian regime targeting jihadists could cause further humanitarian and security difficulties for Turkey.
“We are taking necessary measures along 150 kilometers of Hatay’s border with Syria in light of recent developments in that region, particularly Idlib. As you know, radical groups have taken control there and we are taking measures to avoid humanitarian tragedies and security threats to our country,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters on Aug. 11.
Ankara reviewed the situation in Idlib and other parts of northern Syria at a security summit on Aug. 9 under the leadership of Prime Minister Yıldırım after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by former al-Qaeda offshoot the Nusra Front, took the control of the city. As stated by Yıldırım, there is a strong expectation that a military offensive may be launched against jihadists in Idlib by Russia and the Syrian regime.
Turkey recently reinforced its military deployment along the Syrian border and closed the Cilvegözü border gate, as the other side of the border is under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Cilvegözü will only be used for humanitarian purposes.
Yıldırım underlined that Turkey is ready to “take any action inside and outside the border,” in the event that its security is threatened. When asked what he meant by an “operation against extremists in Idlib,” the prime minister recalled that there were some activities being carried out in the region that involve the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran, and future actions will be taken according to developments.
Talks on Idlib continue
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also responded to questions on the situation in Idlib and Turkey’s decision to close the Cilvegözü border gate.
“Our talks on Idlib are continuing. In particular, our National Intelligence Organization [MİT] is holding talks with Russia on this. Similarly, talks are being held with Iran and meetings on Idlib in Moscow were positive,” Erdoğan said.
He expressed his hope that the situation in Idlib will be “speedily resolved through the Astana process,” which envisages the establishment of “security zones” inside Syria, without further elaborating.
Turkey, Russia and Iran have long been discussing the establishment of what they call “de-conflict zones” for a lasting ceasefire in larger territories of the war-torn country. However, talks could not be yet finalized although three countries have held several meetings to this end.
Turkey closes Cilvegözü gates
On Turkey’s decision to close the Cilvegözü border gate, Erdoğan said Turkey will keep the gate open for humanitarian purposes but no weapons transfer will be allowed.
“We are ready for humanitarian assistance. We are going to keep Cilvegözü open for food, medicine and clothing. But of course we won’t allow weapons [deliveries],” he added.
No ‘artificial states’ to be allowed
On broader developments in the region, Prime Minister Yıldırım stressed that Turkey will take all measures to keep its borders and citizens secure.
“We will not allow efforts for the establishment of new artificial states in Syria and Iraq. We are conducting necessary talks about this. Whatever the conditions are, we will not hesitate to stand against developments against our national interests, sovereign rights and security,” he said.