Jan 30 2018

Turkish military convoy halted in Idlib – analyst and media reports

A Turkish military convoy has been halted in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, an analyst and media reports said, but it was not clear whether the Turkish forces had come under fire.

Political analyst Aaron Stein wrote in a Twitter thread the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) convoy was heading for a location that would be “a tripwire to prevent the expected regime offensive to pincer parts of Idlib” in the pre-agreed de-escalation zone, which Turkey is a stakeholder in protecting.

Then, he said, the Syrian “regime, with Russian and Iranian acquiescence, attacks the convoy, prompting the TSK to turn around or turn off its lights and sit still – maybe both”.

But a reporter for a Dubai-based television channel, citing opposition sources, said the convoy had stopped due to Russian air strikes nearby.

“According to multiple opposition activists on the ground, who are tracking the Turkish army convoy in Idlib, the Russians are bombing a village 2 km in front of the convoy. As a result, the Turkish convoy has come to a halt,“ Al Aan TV reporter Jenan Moussa reported.

“Due to nearby Russian bombing and Syrian shelling, witnesses on the ground now say that the Turkish military convoy has basically turned off its lights and is waiting in the area. We are trying to find out if they will turn back or continue advancing despite warnings,” she said.

“Against this backdrop,” Stein said, “the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and regime are negotiating, with Russian & American acquiescence, to put regime troops between YPG and the Turkish-supported opposition/TSK – but only under terms YPG not yet willing to accept.”

The majority-Kurdish YPG, which now controls a large swathe of the north of Syria, is considered by Turkey to be a terrorist organisation as the sister-group of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984.

Meanwhile, diplomatic initiatives were floundering and a new crisis was brewing between Turkey and the United States in the YPG-held area of Manbij, he said.

“I don’t know what this all means, other than (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is continuing his push to consolidate front lines and the rest of the actors – Russia included – have failed to recognise reality,” Stein said.