Turkey launching a cross-border operation into Idlib, northwestern Syria, is just “a matter of time,” the Turkish president said on Wednesday.
"As with all [previous] operations, we say 'we could suddenly come one night.' In other words, an Idlib operation is a matter of time," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party's parliamentary group in the capital Ankara, referring to three Turkish operations into northern Syria since 2016.
Meetings with Russian officials on ending the bloodshed in Idlib, a conflict-battered province covered by a nominal cease-fire, have failed to produce results, said Erdogan.
"Although the meetings will continue, it is a reality that we were very far from what we want,” he said.
He added: “Turkey has made all preparations to carry out its own operation plans in Idlib."
Turkey is determined to transform Idlib into a safe place at any cost for the sake of both Turkey and the region's people, the president said.
For several years, Turkey has stressed the safety of Syrians along its southern border, both from terrorists seeking to form a “terror corridor” in northern Syria, and from attacks by the Assad regime, Russian forces, and Iranian-backed forces.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But since more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started Jan. 12.
Assad regime advances have sent over a million civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.7 million refugees, more than any country in the world.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terrorist operations across its border into northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable peaceful settlement by locals: Operations Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (October 2019).