The situation in Idlib: Russia is waiting for the fulfillment of Turkish promises

DAMASCUS, ANKARA, MOSCOW, (BM) – The Turkish side undertook to ensure the withdrawal of armed formations from the security corridor within 4-6 months. Moreover, Ankara must carry out this conclusion on its own.

I must say bluntly that at the last Russian-Turkish talks, the Turks were categorically against the designation of any specific dates for the withdrawal of militants. And persuading them to take this step was worth a lot of work. The Turks also agreed that if any radical jihadist formations refuse to leave the security corridor, then radical measures will be taken against them.

But for now, militant groups categorically refuse to leave the corridor.

And the closer their locations are to the west – the Syrian province of Latakia, the more radical the jihadists are and the less they are controlled by the Turkish side.

For example, recently militants have been digging roads, laying out devices for puncturing automobile tires and wheeled armored personnel carriers on them, in some cases they poured oil on the roadbed, and exploded bridges. For example, on the night of March 25, in the village of Al-Kafir west of Idlib, another bridge crossing was blown up. And the day before, an improvised explosive device was detonated in the de-escalation zone, two Turkish soldiers were wounded and subsequently evacuated.

Family members of the militants — women and children — are also actively involved in blocking highways and counteracting joint patrolling of Russian and Turkish troops.

In a number of cases, such groups reaching the highways reach 500 or more people. Even the Turks themselves, when one of their units was heading to Seracab, was attacked by militants.

The Turkish Armed Forces, as far as possible, eliminate road blockages, clear highways, but by morning, the militants again make roads impassable for transport. The Turks wanted to demonstrate at least ostentatious patrols, but this plan in full was never realized in practice.

Turkish soldiers managed to pass only 3-4 km from Seracab, but further barricades were discovered on the way of the Turkish patrol. The personnel and equipment had to be returned back. The weather is also on the side of the militants. In Syria, weather conditions are difficult now: it rains, very cloudy. And this impedes the effective actions of the army aviation.

The main task now is to make urgent efforts to force the Turks to fulfill the agreements reached on creating a security corridor along the M-4 highway.

The Russian side in this regard expresses the hope that the Turks will act more decisively towards the militants. It is necessary to push the Turks persistently to eliminate the most rabid gangs of jihadists. By the way, not all militant groups are financed by Ankara. And it’s hard even for the Turks to agree on something.

Turkey must be given at least time to resolve these issues. And the possibilities, presumably, they will find.

In addition, a lot of positive things have been noted recently regarding the interaction of the Turkish and Russian parties.

In general, the task is this: to clear the militants’ safety corridor for 4-6 months and set up observation posts on its northern and southern borders. In the meantime, the Turkish side managed to put up only three of its posts, and then in the area of ​​the settlement Trumpet.

If it is not possible to achieve the agreements reached on March 5 this year between Moscow and Ankara, then it is entirely possible that the question will arise about the continuation of the operation by the army of Bashar al-Assad to eliminate jihadist formations. However, here it is not complete without nuances.

I must say bluntly that the state of the modern Turkish army does not cause a surge of morale among the Assad fighters. The Turks have more than clearly demonstrated their capabilities in recent hostilities.

At the same time, the fact that today the military-political situation in Turkey itself is not entirely favorable must be added to the difficulties of solving Idlib problems. Nationalists strongly pressure the current leadership in Ankara.

Nevertheless, the situation around Idlib is beginning to stabilize.

In particular, the number of shelling by militant groups was significantly reduced. If before there were 40-50 per day, now it’s from strength 3, maximum 7. Moreover, the shelling of areas inhabited by civilians, in particular on the outskirts of Aleppo, has stopped. Currently, only positions of government forces of Bashar al-Assad are being fired upon. Meanwhile, they have been instructed not to respond to shelling either from small arms, or from guns and mortars. And while this order is being executed. Assad’s army is silent.

The situation in Syria has significantly worsened due to the spread of the coronavirus in this region. And what is the situation with COVID-19 in places like the Idlib de-escalation zone or the Rukban and El-Khol refugee camps, no one really knows. There is practically no access there even for international organizations in the healthcare sector.

Therefore, on March 25, from 6 p.m. throughout Syria, from six in the evening until six in the morning, a curfew was imposed. All checkpoints on the border with Lebanon and Jordan are closed.

However, 61 people have already slipped into Syria. How many of them are infected – no one knows.

As for other areas of Syria, in particular, the north-east of the country, joint Russian-Turkish patrols are carried out there more or less successfully. The Americans are trying to get into this process, but they have much less manpower and resources, and their patrolling is much worse. More precisely, it does not work out at all.

Kurds are clearly observing this, and the emphasis of a significant part of the population is already changing. The Kurds are aware that one way or another, the Americans will leave, and they will ultimately run the risk of being left alone with the Turks.

The top of the Kurdish population is being heavily flooded by Americans with dollars, but nevertheless, more and more representatives of the Kurds are beginning to look for ways to restore ties with the official government of Syria. They just think about their future – about passports, work, contacts with foreign countries, education of children. Even on the draft of the future Syrian constitution, the Kurds have recently had less and less swoops, more precisely, they have completely disappeared.

The Kurds have more and more understanding that they have no other way, as the final recognition of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria. In addition, for comparison, they have pictures of Al-Raqqa and refugee camps controlled by the West. Violence and the sale of children flourish there, mortality is high, and there is a complete absence of normal living conditions. None of the burning problems in these places over the past time has not been fundamentally resolved. Only promises abound.


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Editorial team / Izvestia / Michail Hodarenok

The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.