Turkey Strengthens Syria Outposts as Russia Talks Continue

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(Bloomberg) -- Turkey is deploying additional military supplies to fortify its outposts in Syria’s Idlib province, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Hurriyet newspaper, to defend against any bigger confrontation with Russian-backed Syrian fighters in the area.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by the Russian air force, have launched an offensive to retake Idlib, the only major opposition holdout, from al-Qaeda affiliates and Turkey-backed rebels. The province has become a flashpoint between Ankara and Moscow since Syrian troops killed seven Turkish soldiers and a civilian there last week, but Akar said Turkey was keeping Russia in the loop about its operations in Idlib.

Turkey Strengthens Syria Outposts as Russia Talks Continue

“We are coordinating with the Russians,” Akar said, reiterating that the 12 Turkish outposts near Idlib will stay in place. Turkey will do whatever necessary to move in the supplies if Syria tries to block them, he added.

Akar didn’t say what kind of supplies had been dispatched, but state-run Anadolu Agency reported the deployment of howitzers and ammunition.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syria to end its siege this month or risk a harsh reprisal for attacks “from the air or the ground.”

A Russian delegation including President Vladimir Putin’s Syria envoy visited Ankara on Saturday to try to ease the strains around Idlib, and Turkish and Russian delegations will continue talks next week, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement.

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