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Turkish troops coordinate actions in Idlib, Syria with Russian Federation - prime minister

Operation Idlib

The troop movement is part of a joint mission between Turkey, Russia and Iran to monitor a de-escalation zone in Syria and remove a stronghold of former al-Qaida militants from the area. "Now this step has been taken, and it is underway".

He also said that Russia has agreed to provide air support to the operation; however, there has been no official comment yet by the Russian Defense Ministry supporting the claim.

Several mortar shells landed near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey, believed to be fired from the Turkish side of the border.

It is not clear what role the Turkish military will play in the operation.

Turkish forces not yet involved and the campaign is being carried out by Turkish-backed Free Syria Army rebels, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.

The US maintains that the group is still linked to al Qaeda, however. "There are millions of people in Idlib, and we will protect Idlib", Erdoğan said.

"A Turkish intervention has been on the table for a long time", he said, adding that Turkey had been working to encourage defections in order "to isolate the group associated with Jolani".

"We will never allow a terror corridor along our Syrian border", Erdogan said.

Idlib is largely held by the Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which was not part of the talks and has rejected the implementation of a de-escalation zone.

He later told reporters the operation was led by so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants and that the Turkish army was "not yet" operating inside Syria.

Turkish troops are expected to be deployed inside Idlib with Russians stationed around the city, and the collaboration emphasizes the closer ties between Erdogan and Putin, a relationship viewed with concern by Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

FSA groups have said they are not willing to accept participation by Russian Federation, which they accuse of supporting the Assad regime through bombings in civilian areas. Turkey has supported and backed rebels that seek the toppling of Assad.

Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow's military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict.

While the Nusra front was formed as an off-shoot of al Qaeda, the militia changed its name and denounced its allianceto the terror network previous year, but the separation has been dismissed by many experts as largely superficial.