Monday, 22 October, 2018

Leaders of Russia, Turkey meet to discuss Syria's Idlib

Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised zone around the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised zone around the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province
Glenn Montgomery | 18 September, 2018, 08:15

Ongoing U.S. support for Syrian Kurds considered terrorists by Turkey has strained the relationship between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Washington and Ankara.

Turkey has intensified negotiations with Russian Federation to avert a possible attack, repeatedly calling for a cease-fire.

Monday's meeting was Putin and Erdogan's second in 10 days as the Turkish leader presses Syria's main backer to forgo an attack on Idlib.

Russia-backed forces of the Syrian regime have massed around Idlib province in recent weeks, which sparked fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.

The province, the size of Lebanon, has been the beating heart of the rebellion for years. Most of the displaced headed toward the border with Turkey, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, packing already overcrowded camps there.

He said that putting the Idlib battle on hold would give the Syrian army a chance to jump to the next phase, the illegitimate presence of the USA -backed forces in northeastern Syria.

"One million children are trapped in Idlib facing what could be the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the long and bloody history of Syria's seven-year war", said Syria Response Advocacy Manager Caroline Anning. The group denies it is linked to al-Qaida.

Idlib is strategically important for both Russian Federation and Turkey. With little prospect of a major USA intervention, Mr. Erdogan may have been able to persuade his Russian counterpart to move slowly and pursue a strategy that centers on rooting out terrorist elements from Idlib while stopping short of a scorched-earth campaign against all of Mr. Assad's enemies.

What's in the Idlib deal?

Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. "Last time it took only a few days for the deal to fall apart and there were many lives lost in Kafr Zeita after bombing".

There are other Islamists and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner. For Ankara, the increasingly assertive, USA -backed Syrian Kurds were an existential threat that encourages the aspirations of its own Kurdish insurgents. Sean Robertson also affirmed USA support for the "de-escalation of violence in Syria, unhindered humanitarian access, an enduring defeat of ISIS and other terrorists and progress toward a credible political resolution".

There are an estimated 60,000 rebel fighters in Idlib and its surrounding areas.

An Idlib offensive holds multiple threats for Turkey right on its border — a humanitarian crisis, a security nightmare with thousands of gunmen loose and a defeat to its plans for the safe zone. Turkey, in turn, has backed elements of the opposition. "The Turkish and United States serious pressures were the reason behind Russian Federation abstaining from the offensive and offering an air cover which means Iran alone won't be able to carry out the offensive with the overstretched forces of the regime".

"Let's all take steps, measures together against the terror groups among the opposition in Idlib", Erdogan said according to Hurriyet.

But even as Turkey appeared to be boxed in, some analysts said that Erdogan had in fact been bolstered by support from Europe and the United States.

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