Turkish, Russian armed forces to ensure safety in Syria's Idlib: Erdogan

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On Saturday, Erdogan announced plans to deploy Turkish forces to Idlib, where the Free Syrian Army rebel fighters backed by Ankara have launched an operation.

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.

"In fact, the resolution of the Idlib situation would mean the untangling of the Syrian knot", Mahalli said.

"Today in Idlib there is a serious operation underway, and it will continue", Erdogan said during an address to his party in Afyonkarahisar.

The state-run Anadolu news agency identified the consulate employee as a male Turkish citizen and said he was arrested late on Wednesday on charges of espionage and attempts to damage the constitutional order and Turkey's government. Turkish soldiers have not yet crossed the border, he added.

Erdogan said Sunday that Turkey would not allow a "terror corridor" by the Kurdish militia aiming to link its territories from eastern Syria to the Mediterranean.

Turkey's NTV, a private television station, reported an exchange of fire at the border area, quoting "military sources". Turkey has supported and backed rebels that seek the toppling of Assad.

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Much of Idlib is controlled by the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is made up of large elements of a former al-Qaida affiliate that changed its name a year ago from the al-Nusra Front.

Meanwhile, the HTS said entering Idlib by the Turkish-backed rebels "will not be a picnic".

Russia's defence ministry on Saturday said its forces killed about 120 ISIL (also known as ISIS) fighters and more than 60 foreign mercenaries in a series of air raids in al-Mayadeen and near the border town of Al Bukamal, also in Deir Az Zor.

After his talks with Erdogan in Astana on September 28, Putin said that Moscow and Ankara had reaffirmed readiness to implement the final agreements reached in mid-September in Astana about four de-escalation zones, including the largest one in Idlib.

Airstrikes were reported in parts of Idlib on Saturday, follows a month of heavy bombardment of the province by Russian Federation and the Syrian regime killing scores of civilians.

Puzzlingly, the ministry also said three senior IS commanders including Omar al-Shishani had been confirmed dead as a result of an earlier Russian strike.

It has been a formidable military force since early in the conflict, often fighting alongside other rebel groups, but since early this year it has battled them as it tried to gain control over areas including Idlib.