Turkey bolsters outposts in Syria's besieged Idlib
A Turkish security source emphasised they would only serve to reinforce the 12 existing posts established under a 2018 deal with Russia to prevent an offensive by Syrian regime forces.
Reinforcements are set to continue, a Turkish military soruce told Reuters. "Our forces are ready to retaliate against any attack in the harshest way," the source said.
Reports from The New Arab's Arabic-language correspondent in Istanbul said Turkey was building a new observation post to the west of Sarmin, in eastern Idlib province.
They added that a convoy including six tanks, five armoured personnel carriers and 23 armoured vehicles left Taftanaz military airport in Idlib and headed east towards the town of Binnish.
Russian officials will arrive in Ankara for talks on Saturday, Turkey's foreign minister said on Friday.
"A delegation from Russia will arrive in Turkey. We will hold talks. Our goal is to stop the (Syrian) regime's aggression and move the political process forward," Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Turkish diplomatic sources told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that Ankara would reinstate its demands for Syrian regime forces to withdraw out of the de-escalation zone around Idlib, or launch a large-scale escalation.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in recent weeks as the Syrian regime, backed by Russian air strikes, presses an assault to retake Idlib.
Regime forces on Thursday seized large parts of the key highway town of Saraqeb along with strategic parts of the Damascus-Aleppo main road, as they accelerate their offensive to recapture the enclave.
Comment: In Idlib, Assad's war machine has a lethal message: 'Leave or die'
Strikes on Idlib city by Russian warplanes on Thursday evening killed at least 10 civilians, The New Arab’s Arabic-language service reported.
Meanwhile, regime mortar shelling killed five Turkish soldiers and three civilians were killed earlier this week by regime shelling. Retaliatory fire by Turkey killed at least 13 Syrian regime troops.
Weeks of intensive aerial bombardment and a steadily advancing ground offensive have emptied entire towns in the Idlib region and forced some 586,000 Syrians to flee their homes since December.
Nearly all of the previously 110,000 people who used to reside in Saraqeb have now fled.
Turkish outposts to remain despite Syrian advance
Turkey says three of its outposts - all in the southeastern part of the region - have now been encircled by regime forces.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights monitor said Wednesday that Turkish troops at another position in Saraqeb had shelled Syrian forces to prevent it also being surrounded.
The security source refused to confirm those clashes but said Turkish forces in the area "are taking every kind of measure and will take every kind of measure" to ensure safety.
He said Turkey's priority was to stop the Syrian advance and reinstate the ceasefire, stressing that no Turkish soldiers would be evacuated.
Turkey and Russia have worked closely in recent years to resolve the situation in Idlib despite being on opposing sides of the conflict.
The Turkish source insisted that coordination with Russia remained strong and that joint patrols in northeastern Syria were only cancelled earlier this week due to "heavy weather conditions".
A delegation from Russia is expected in Turkey on Saturday for further talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.