Claims Turkish army will enter Idlib untrue: Hatay governor
A Turkish border province's governing office on Saturday denied reports, circulated in a number of Arabic and English language publications, claiming that the Turkish army would be deployed to Syria's opposition-held northern province of Idlib after a de-escalation plan for the war-torn country came into place on midnight Friday.
According to a report published in the pan-Arab, and pro-Syrian regime al-Mayadeen TV channel - citing anonymous activists - Turkish officials sent a telegram to armed rebel factions in Idlib, informing them that Turkish forces would enter Idlib, which borders Turkey.
Al-Mayadeen said that Turkish officials had stated in the Telegram that Turkish forces would deploy inside border villages in the province with armoured vehicles and infantry, while maintenance workers would also seek to rehabilitate water and electricity infrastructures.
The report also claimed that Turkish forces would seek to diplomatically resolve the issue of the al-Qaeda linked Fatah al-Sham front's presence in Idlib by "diplomatically" asking fighters from the group to turn their positions over to the Turkish army.
The Fatah al-Sham front is not included in the de-escalation deal agreed by Russia, and Iran - both backers of the Assad regime, and Turkey - which supports the rebels.
Rebel forces have expressed opposition to the deal, with the US also expressing some reservations.
However, the governor's office of the southern Turkish province of Hatay, which borders Idlib, dismissed the claims as lies.
"Such statements that were claimed by some Arabic publishing [web] sites and social media accounts saying that the Turkish army will enter the Idlib region are not reflecting the truth," the governor's office stated, in comments published by the state- affiliated Anadolu agency.
The de-escalation deal calls for the establishment of four "de-escalation" zones across stretches of eight Syrian provinces.
Security zones on the edges of the areas would be established to monitor and ensure access, with forces from the three guarantor nations manning checkpoints and observation posts.
The deal, the latest bid to end more than six years of war, seeks to ground all military aviation in the four areas, including flights by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
But it calls for continued action against IS as well as the former al-Qaeda affiliate now known as Fateh al-Sham Front.
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
The fighting has cost nearly 500,000 lives, the vast majority victims of regime bombing.
Turkey militarily intervened in Syria in August 2016, launching an operation titled the "Euphrates Shield" made up of both Turkish army troops and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels.
Troops that make up the operation have targeted the Islamic State group and also clashed with Kurdish armed forces.
Although Ankara announced the conclusion of the Euphrates Shield operation in March Turkish forces remain on the ground in areas of Aleppo province.