New threats related to Idlib this week could see the Russian and Turkish armies on a direct collision course.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday threatened a full-scale military invasion of the war torn province after the Syrian Army and its Russian ally refused to halt their ongoing offensive.
"An operation in Idlib is imminent," Erdogan told Turkish parliament of preparations for NATO's second largest army. "We are counting down, we are making our final warnings".
"Turkey has completed preparations for the implementation of its plan on Idlib, just like we did with previous operations. Frankly speaking, an operation in Idlib is only a matter of time," Erdogan said.
He further emphasized that Turkey "is determined to pay any price to ensure security in both Idlib and Turkey." The Syrian and Turkish armies have been engaged in sporadic fierce clashes for the past two weeks in Idlib, resulting in scores dead and wounded on each side, though specific numbers are disputed. Turkey has acknowledged at least 13 of its national troops killed.
"We will not leave Idlib to the [Syrian] regime, which does not understand our country's determination, and to those encouraging it," said Erdogan. Turkey has thus far sent limited deployments of troops and armored convoys into the northwest Syrian province to support and defend a dozen observation posts.
The Kremlin was quick to respond to such a threat of major escalation, pointing out that any Turkish offensive against Syrian forces in Idlib would be the "worst case scenario".
“If it will be an operation against terrorist forces in Idlib, that would certainly be within the spirit” of Russia’s agreements with Turkey, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said before adding: “But if it is about an operation against legitimate Syrian armed forces, that would certainly be the worst case scenario.”
Talks between Turkish and Russian officials earlier this week related to Idlib failed to reach any agreement. This after Erdogan and Trump held a phone call wherein both leaders agreed the Syrian-Russian offensive must be halted "immediately".
Mainstream media has also begun to again put Idlib coverage front and center as hundreds of thousands of civilians are said to be fleeing. Erdogan has long expressed fears that a million or more refugees could flood across the Turkish border, adding to the already some three million Turkey says it's hosting.
UN figures state that at least 700,000 people have been displaced in Idlib since fighting was renewed in early December.