Oct. 8 (UPI) — Turkey deployed commando units along its border with Syria and aided Free Syrian Army rebels as they crossed into Syria’s Idlib province, the Turkish government announced.
The troop movement is part of a joint mission between Turkey, Russia and Iran to monitor a de-escalation zone in Syria and remove a stronghold of former al-Qaida militants from the area. The three countries agreed in May to be guarantors of a cease-fire to help end the six-year civil war in Syria.
Although there is no U.S. involvement in the mission, and the U.S. government is watching the combined involvement of the three countries armies. A Pentagon spokesman said the United States supports the action.
Rebels of the FSA rode on trucks through Turkey and crossed the Syrian border on Saturday, while Turkish troops fully equipped with tanks and other weapons assembled at the border, awaiting orders to enter Syria.
Turkish troops were expected to be deployed within the city of Idlib while Russian troops attempt to control the perimeter and the city’s suburbs. The collaboration reflects closer ties between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ergodan formerly sided with the United States in insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be deposed in order to end the civil war, a move Russia opposes.
Putin and Erdogan met Sept. 28, and last week, Erdogan met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to organize the Idlib deployment. The new cooperative relationship between Turkey, Russia and Iran is a source of worry for the United States and for NATO, of which Turkey is a member.
Erdogan said Sunday that the Idlib action is continuing “without any problem,” adding that “the efforts there are continuing smoothly with our support for the Free Syrian Army.”