Ankara: Turkish troops have set up a new “observation point” in the Syrian province of Idlib as part of efforts to reduce violence in the conflict, state media reported Thursday.
The point - an outpost staffed by a small number of troops to monitor any fighting - was established nearly 70 kilometres from the Turkish border in the northwestern province, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
Idlib is nearly completely under the control of anti-government forces, predominantly Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), a group led by Al Qaida’s former Syria affiliate.
Anadolu said a Turkish military convoy crossed the Turkey-Syria border Wednesday night.
The latest post is in Maarrat Al Numan town in southeastern Idlib.
This is the sixth such position in the province after two were established earlier this month by the Turkish army. The other three were set up in October and November.
Turkish convoys have come under attack including one incident early in February which killed one soldier. The Turkish army said “terror groups” were responsible.
Establishing the observation points is a key element in peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana aimed at ending the seven-year Syrian conflict.
One of the agreements of the talks - sponsored by Turkey, Russia and Iran - was to create four so-called de-escalation zones including Idlib.
The other three are the greater Damascus area, the southern Daraa region and Homs city.
Turkey last week said it would host a three-way summit with the Russian and Iranian leaders following last year’s Sochi summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The date has yet to be fixed but is one of many moves Turkey has been making with Moscow and Tehran despite being on opposite sides of the war.
Iran and Russia are staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime but Ankara has called for Al Assad’s ouster and supported Syrian opposition fighters.
Since January 20, Turkey has conducted a cross-border offensive with ground troops and air strikes supporting Syrian rebels against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) viewed by Ankara as “terrorists”.