Erdogan: We’ll Push Syrian Troops Away from Turkish Positions in Idlib
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has issued a fresh threat to remove Syrian government troops from areas around Turkish observation posts inside Syria. The positions are in Idlib Province and were surrounded by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of their ongoing offensive against some of the last rebels holding out in Syria’s almost nine-year civil war. “We are planning to liberate our observation posts from the surrounding [Syrian soldiers] by the end of this month, one way or another,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his AK Party on Wednesday in Ankara. Turkey inserted troops into Syria and began backing anti-Assad rebels out of concern over refugees fleeing the fighting; so far, some 3.6 million have found shelter in Turkey, stretching social services and causing resentment among Turkish citizens. Ankara is also interested in blocking access by Syrian Kurdish militias that have been fighting against Assad’s troops. These forces have long maintained positions along or near the Turkish border, and Erdogan accuses them of providing assistance to outlawed Kurdish groups inside Turkey that have been agitating for autonomy.