Turkish AKP government on Friday officially designated the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group as a terrorist organisation, ahead of an anticipated operation by the Syrian army in the province of Idlib, much of which is controlled by the group.
The government updated its list of terror groups under a document published in the official gazette and included HTS on the new list. It bracketed HTS as a variant name for Al-Nusra Front.
The HTS is dominated by the Fateh al-Sham faction, which was previously known as Al-Nusra Front.
On August 4, the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan reported that militants from Al-Nusra Front had rejected Turkey's demand for dissolution of the terrorist group's units in Idlib province in Syria's northwest. The developments came after Ankara demanded that al-Nusra Front militants join the so-called "Northern Syrian Army," which is being formed by the Turkish military.
Syrian forces have been massing for days around Idlib. Idlib lies along the border with Turkey but is otherwise nearly completely surrounded by government-held territory.
Turkey has 12 military observation posts inside Idlib aimed at monitoring a de-escalation zone and media reports have said it has sent concrete blocks over the border to reinforce them in case of an assault. Turkish AKP government's troops had been provided with an armed escort into Idlib by none other than the jihadist HTS in 2017.
Russian, Turkish and Iranian leaders are due to meet on Friday in Iran to discuss the situation in northwestern Syria.
US ENVOY FOR SYRIA IN TURKEY FOR TALKS
The US envoy for Syria was in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the war-torn country with Turkish officials as an operation against jihadist-held Idlib appeared imminent.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar discussed the Syrian war with James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria engagement, the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement, but gave no further details about the content of the meeting.
The two men also discussed Kurdish militants in the region, the ministry added.