Turkey is in discussions with Russia on a possible operation east of Afrin. The real aim is to have direct access to Idlib, before Ankara and Moscow's upcoming joint operation in the city.
Two weeks ago Turkey deployed more troops and trucks to its border with Syria near Afrin and hit the YPG with heavy artillery fire in retaliation for its attacks on Turkish-backed opposition forces.
But the deployment is not only for retaliation. There have been talks between Turkey and Russia on a possible operation in the east of Afrin.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu was in Ankara on Sunday and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to Syrian opposition sources, who have been working with the Turkish army for the last three years and are now in Maree, they are ready for the operation and waiting for the order from Ankara.
The sources told TRT World that the operation was aimed at taking the Menagh Airport, Tel Rifat and more southern villages back from the YPG. The main focus is to have direct access from opposition-held areas on the Turkish border to Idlib.
Opposition sources: Joint Idlib operation to begin
Russia and Turkey are planning a wide aerial operation on Idlib in order to drive Nusra, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, out of the city. There are also Turkey-backed opposition groups northwest of Idlib. In the south, it is the border line with regime forces.
After the operation ends, Turkish and Russian troops will be based in the city, as a practical buffer zone, to prevent clashes between Russian-backed regime forces to the south and opposition forces to the north
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters two weeks ago that Russian and Turkish troops would probably be based in Idlib in order to create de-conflicting zones.
Opposition forces are awaiting orders from Ankara to mobilise for the Afrin operation, the details of which will be discussed in Astana, where Turkish military and intelligence officers will meet on July 4.
Why does Turkey cooperate with Russia for this operation in east Afrin?
The YPG controls Manbij as well as the area north of Manbij and is protected by US military bases.
That lead to tensions with Ankara because the YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.
The YPG in Afrin, on the other hand, is financially supported by Russia.
Turkish diplomatic source: Iran opposes
Turkish diplomatic sources told TRT World that Iran opposes the plans. Tehran also asks for bases in Idlib and doesn't want Turkey to have more territory in the city.
An Iranian delegate will also join the Astana talks.
Author: Ece Göksedef