Turkey says likely to deploy heavy weapons in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Ankara will deploy heavy weaponry in the Syrian territory against Damascus if necessary. The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned Turkey’s illegal military deployment in its northern regions.

“At the moment, our operations are continuing in the critically important points of the region, there are absolutely no compromises. We are continuing this process in Syria. Right now I don’t know what position the regime [of internationally-recognised Syrian President Bashar Asssad -ed.] will take, but we continue to do everything necessary, especially against this approach in Idlib, and we will continue to respond with all our heavy weaponry. We will not leave this situation as it is,” the Turkish leader told reporters on Thursday.

Erdogan made the comments on his presidential plane while returning from a mini-tour of Africa.

Along with the Syria remarks, the president warned that Turkey might kick out ambassadors from ten countries, including the United States, over demands that detained Turkish Open Society Foundation cofounder and activist Osman Kavala be immediately released.

Turkey has carried out three separate incursions into northern Syria over the past five years, mostly against Washington-backed Syrian Kurdish militias, but also in support of rebranded ‘former terrorist’ militants in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib.

Damascus has accused both Turkey and the US of illegally occupying and pillaging its territories, and has alleged that Turkish forces engaged in ethnic cleansing. Ankara has denied the allegations, while Washington has disingenuously claimed that its presence in Syria is connected to the threat of a resurgent Daesh.

Last week, two Turkish troops had been killed in Idlib by jihadist militants.

Ankara has been occupying the region since 2017, ostensibly as part of a de-escalation operations. Many of the Syria-based “moderate rebels” and outright jihadists fled to Turkish protection in Idlib after being routed and threatened with destruction in other areas of the country.

On Thursday, local sources told the Syrian Arab News Agency that Turkey had deployed a convoy of military equipment and ammunition-laden trucks into Idlib region for use by Turkish-backed militias in the city of Idlib and its environs. The 31 vehicle convoy was said to have included anti-tank rockets and portable air defence systems.

Also last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Russia and the United States of failing to live up to their responsibilities in Syria, and claimed that both countries shared the blame for Syrian Kurdish attacks in Turkish-occupied areas of the country. Cavusoglu’s comments followed threats by Erdogan about Ankara’s patience “overflowing” as a result of constant “terrorist attacks” against Turkish forces and their allies in Syria, and warnings that Turkey would “soon take the necessary steps to eliminate the threats emanating from Syria on our own.”

Syria has been at war with Western-, Turkish- and Gulf sheikdom-backed terrorists and militia groups since 2011. The Syrian military has typically avoided direct engagements with US and Turkish forces, barring occasional flare-ups in fighting sparked by attempts by Syrian troops to liberate their territories from foreign occupiers.

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