Turkey and Syria close in on al-Bab, diplomatic traffic intensifies

Turkish military vehicles in northern Syria's al-Bab, (c) Hikmet Durgun/Sputnik

In order to avoid confrontation with Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Turkey is coordinating the siege of al-Bab with Russia, Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview to Turkish channel NTV.

Turkey’s operation in Syria, The Euphrates Shield, has closed in on al-Bab from the North while al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has cut off the southern connections of the area.

“The al-Bab operation should be completed as soon as possible,” Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said speaking at a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

“In recent days, our special forces, our troops and the soldiers of the Free Syrian Army have made serious progress. The air support from the coalition and Russia’s operations against [the Islamic State] have also contributed to this. We want to complete this operation as soon as possible,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister said.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) was declared defunct by many analysts but the group, albeit with a new composition, regained prominence after Turkey’s entry into Syria last year and is dominated by Islamist and pan-Turkic nationalist groups.

Cavusoglu brought up the phone conversation between Turkey’s and US’ Presidents saying that Erdogan “told Trump clearly how Turkey has been an effective in fighting IS to date.”

The Turkish foreign minister pointed out that al-Bab, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq were the key cities in the region that Turkey and US would cooperate on.

“The operation in Raqqa should be conducted with the right [groups] and not with terror organisations,” Cavusoglu said repeating President Erdogan’s reported call to Trump that Washington should cooperate with Turkey – not YPG-led SDF forces.