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  • A soldier waves the Syrian flag as they continue the Idlib offensive.

    A soldier waves the Syrian flag as they continue the Idlib offensive. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 9 February 2020

“The regime, with Russia’s support, has been violating all agreements and accords,” the official said. “We are prepared for any event. Of course, all options are on the table.”

Turkey has sent a large number of military reinforcements to Syria's Idlib province after a Syrian military offensive resulted in heavy territorial losses for the armed groups. 

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In a statement released by Reuters on Sunday, a Turkish official confirmed the arrival of military reinforcements and said  “all options are on the table."

Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot absorb any more and has demanded Damascus pull back in Idlib by the end of the month or face Turkish action.

Large convoys of military vehicles carrying tanks, armored personnel carriers and other equipment have crossed into Syria to reinforce a dozen Turkish military positions, several of which are now surrounded by advancing Syrian troops.

“There was a serious troop and military equipment support sent to Syria’s Idlib region in recent weeks,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Three hundred vehicles entered Idlib on Saturday, bringing the total to around 1,000 this month, he said. He declined to say exactly how many new troops had been deployed, but described it as a “notable amount”.

“The observation points have been fully reinforced,” the official said. “The Idlib front has been strengthened.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said 1,240 Turkish military vehicles crossed into Idlib in the last week, along with 5,000 soldiers.

The fighting in Idlib has shaken the fragile cooperation between Turkey, which backs rebels who once hoped to topple Assad, and Russia, whose support helped the once-beleaguered president bring most of the country back under his control.

On Monday, eight Turkish military personnel were killed in shelling by Syrian government forces, prompting Turkey to tell Russia to “stand aside” while its forces to bombard dozens of Syrian army targets in retaliation.

“The regime, with Russia’s support, has been violating all agreements and accords,” the official said. “We are prepared for any event. Of course, all options are on the table.”

Despite Turkey’s disagreement with Russia over Idlib, the official described talks between them in Ankara on Saturday as positive. The two sides will meet again in the coming week.

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Syria Turkey
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