Turkey sets up ‘observation point’ in Syria’s Idlib

Idlib lies to the west of the Kurdish-held region of Afrin

ISTANBUL - A convoy of Turkish troops entered Syria's northwestern province of Idlib on Monday to set up a new "observation point" aimed at reducing violence under a deal with Russia, the military said.
Idlib, which is largely controlled by Islamist rebel forces, lies to the west of the Kurdish-held region of Afrin which is currently the target of a major military operation by the Turkish army.
The military said in a statement that the point was the fourth such position within Idlib province set up by the Turkish army in line with peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.
It is being set up in the Seyh Isa area of Idlib, it said.
Those talks -- sponsored by Turkey, Iran and Russia -- set out the creation of four so-called de-escalation zones in Idlib, the greater Damascus area, the southern region of Daraa and the city of Homs.
Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, which ousted more moderate rebels in recent months.
The region is also home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Syria's seven-year-old civil war including many who moved after fighting in neighbouring Aleppo province.
Last week, a Turkish convoy seeking to deploy in Idlib was hit by a bomb attack that killed one civilian. The army blamed the Kurdish militants they are fighting in the Afrin area.
The latest deployment also comes after a Russian pilot was killed Saturday in fighting with Islamist rebels after his warplane was downed over Idlib.
HTS claimed that it brought down the plane with a shoulder-launched missile.
Turkey and Russia have been on opposite sides of the civil war, with Ankara backing rebels and Moscow the chief ally of President Bashar al-Assad along with Iran.
They have since late 2016 however worked closely on a process to bring peace to Syria, despite occasional tensions. Russian media reports have said Moscow expects Turkey's help in recovering the body of the dead pilot.