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Iran Press TV

Turkey sends tanks near Iraqi and Syrian borders

Iran Press TV

Mon Sep 18, 2017 09:31AM

Turkey has launched a military drill featuring tanks close to the Iraqi border and dispatched military vehicles to its southern border with Syria where several warring sides are jockeying for position in the face of Daesh losses.

The military exercises began in the Silopi-Habur region in the country's south, close to northern Iraq, a week before Iraq's Kurdish region holds a vote on possible secession.

Ankara has warned that the vote could risk "civil war" and "have a cost" if it goes ahead but Iraqi Kurds have said they would still hold the non-binding referendum on September 25.

Witnesses in the region, quoted by the French news agency AFP, said they saw around 100 military vehicles deployed close to the Iraqi border, including tanks, in the early hours of Monday.

A Turkish military statement said, "Simultaneously with this exercise, counter-terrorism operations in the border region continue."

Syria deployment

On Sunday, Turkey sent about 80 military vehicles, including tanks, to the Iskenderun district of the southeastern province of Hatay as part of reinforcements for forces stationed along the border.

It is the second time the Turkish military deploys military reinforcements to the border with Syria where an expanding grip of US-backed Kurdish militants on nearby territories is raising alarms in Turkey.

The Turkish army sent first aid trucks and military vehicles as well as heavy equipment to the same location on Saturday, according to the agency said.

Anadolu noted that a third convoy of armored vehicles was heading to Hatay's Reyhanli district, where Turkey's Cilvegozu border gate with Syria is located.

The Syrian government is wary of the outside players carving out zones of influence through local proxies. The US has already brought together a ragtag group of mostly Kurdish militants and equipped them with heavy weapons.

Turkey, on the other hand, is supporting another group of militants who have taken a number of towns in recent years.

Last week, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which together act as guarantor states in peace talks for Syria, agreed on the details of a "de-escalation zone" in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey, during resolution talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday observers from the three countries will be deployed around the de-escalation zone to prevent "clashes between the government and the opposition forces and any violations of the truce."

On Saturday, the Syrian government welcomed the agreement but stressed that it would not grant Turkish military forces authorization to stay in Syria.

Idlib Province is largely under the control of foreign-sponsored and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, which was formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, which Damascus denounced as a breach of its sovereignty.

In March, Turkey announced that the operation had ended "successfully," with the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) prevented from conjoining its territories.

The YPG is part of a larger coalition of militants – the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – which has been engaged in operations to capture the Syrian city of Raqqah.

Ankara has on multiple occasions expressed its deep concern about the advance of YPG forces in northern Syria.

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