Turkey is “closely watching” Russian troop movements in Syria near its border, a government source in Ankara said on Friday, after reports that Russian servicemen had deployed in the Syrian border town of Qamishli. Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said that Russia had sent a number of engineers to Qamishli to strengthen the runway and increase the capacity of an airport just south of the town.

Russia’s reported move into Qamishli comes as Ankara and Moscow are experiencing their biggest crisis in years over the shooting down of a Russian war plane by Turkey on November 24. Observers have said that Russia, which has for years been at loggerheads with Turkey over the Syrian conflict, may want to refit the airport as a Russian base, as happened in Hmeimim in Latakia province. Qamishli lies just south of the Turkish border town of Nusaybin. FULL REPORT