(Photo Credit: AFP)
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Turkish-backed armed groups both sent significant military reinforcements to contact lines in Idlib and the countryside of Aleppo in the northwestern region, reported Asharq Al-Awsat on 17 January.
Armed groups supported by Turkiye in the country’s northwest have expressed concern about the threat presented by Ankara’s efforts to mend fences and normalize relations with Damascus.
“Military operations against the SAA began to escalate following recent Turkish statements about the path of rapprochement and reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus,” a Turkish-backed official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Turkish-backed groups voiced their concerns following the tripartite meeting between the defense minister of Turkiye, Hulusi Akar, and his Syrian counterpart, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, which took place on 28 December in Moscow. This was the first high-level meeting between the two countries since the start of the War in 2011.
However, a key assistant to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on 14 January that a new Turkish ground offensive in Syria is “possible at any time.”
Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s foreign policy advisor, said that despite Russia’s efforts to promote peace, Ankara was not giving up on the possibility of conducting a fresh military operation.
Kalin told reporters, “a ground operation is possible any time, depending on the level of threats we receive.”
His remarks come two days after Assad stated that the “end of occupation” by Turkiye should be the main goal for any future negotiations with Ankara.
Three days ago, Russian media reported that clashes broke out in the northern Latakia countryside between units of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and militants from several extremist factions, including the former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
As a result of the clashes, three Syrian soldiers were killed, while 18 extremist militants were left dead or wounded, the source added.
In November 2022, The Syrian and Turkish armies stationed reinforcements close to the contact lines in the region of northern Syria that is currently under occupation. Ankara reportedly sent troops to Azaz in the northwest Aleppo governorate, while Damascus stepped up its presence in the neighboring city of Kobani to the east.