A day after the Turkish president announced a new military operation in Syria's Idlib, he again lashed out at the West over its alleged "support" of terrorist groups.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the "West's shadow" is behind terrorist groups, including Daesh and al-Qaeda. He yet again accused the US-backed Syrian Kurds, Ankara believes to be linked to the PKK (outlawed in Turkey), of attempts to create a "terrorist corridor from Afrin to the Mediterranean" on the border with Turkey and vowed to defend his country's security.
"Islamic State [Daesh, ISIS, banned in Russia], al-Qaeda, PKK — behind all these organizations you will see the shadow of the West. All of them find refuge in the West. Where is FETO? Also in the West. They receive very serious financial support," President Erdogan said as quoted by RIA Novosti on Sunday, speaking to activists of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Commenting on the upcoming military operation by the Turkish army to support Free Syrian Army rebels' fight against al-Nusra Front in Idlib, Erdogan said that the situation on the border with Syria is a threat to Ankara and "if we didn't take our measures, bombs would fall on our cities," referring to a deal on the creation of a de-escalation zone in the area brokered by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara.
"Our efforts in Idlib are going on, in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army, without problems at the moment," he said, adding that Ankara's actions are in line with decisions made at the last round of the Astana talks on the Syrian settlement backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
He said that the operation in Idlib continues the previous Turkish operation in Syria (August 2016 — March 2017) conducted also with the FSA rebel fighters dubbed the "Euphrates Shield," which was aimed to clear the Syrian border town of Jarablus and the surrounding area from Daesh terrorist group.
Currently, Idlib is mostly controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group led by al-Nusra Front terrorist group (banned in Russia), al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate. The group is not party to the agreement on setting up a de-escalation zone in Idlib agreed upon during the Syrian peace talks in Astana.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish foreign minister also commented on the situation in Idlib by saying, "We reached an agreement in Astana. Why? We want to prevent conflict in these areas. That is to say de-conflict zone." The country's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, in his turn, said that Ankara's actions in Idlib are coordinated with Moscow.
The Russian Defense Ministry hasn't yet commented on Turkey's plans for an operation in Idlib, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Russia is ready to support armed groups fighting al-Nusra Front in Syria's Idlib de-escalation zone.