The Russian-Turkish Agreement on Idlib: the Path to Political Solution by Halting the Specter of War and Regulating the Armed Forces
By Asaad Kanjo
Translated from Arabic by the Center for Arab Progress
In a surprise move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accompanied by Foreign and Finance Ministers and a number of businessmen to the Russian city of Sochi to hold a bilateral summit with his Russian counterpart. The two leaders then came out and announced a road map for the solution in Idlib. The surprising results and carries with it a change in Moscow’s position, which was edgy at the time. Their response was positive to the Turkish demands, which requests to avoid any military action in Idlib. They also accepted to reinstate and return the adoption of the outputs of Astana and the political ways to resolve the file of North Syria, or what is known as the area for “reducing the escalation”. This was clearly confirmed by the Russian Defense Minister who stated that the main outcome of the meeting is the agreement for no military work to be done in Idlib. The highlights of the meeting were on the establishment of a demilitarized buffer zone at a depth of 15 to 20 kilometers. It is come to be believed as a separation between the regime’s forces and the opposition forces and other groups. While it was remarkable also that Tehran and Damascus welcomed the outcomes of the Sochi Summit and the agreement is blessed.
Until now, unofficial data indicates that the area will be cut in a relatively parallel way from areas controlled by the regime and areas beyond its control. Turkish and Russian forces are due to deploy jointly in the demilitarized zone, which will mean the reopening of international and major roads under the supervision and control of the joint Russian-Turkish forces. This was confirmed by Moscow through official statements indicated that the road of Aleppo, Damascus International and the road to Aleppo, Latakia will be
opened before the end of this year. While the Russian President affirmed that Damascus agreed to the plan, which was approved with the side of The Turks. This will become a breakthrough with the North situation. And what is more important is to move away from the specter of war which could results in a humanitarian crisis.
According to official states that the implementation of hthe Turkish-Russian agreement will begin its implementation in October. However, until the moment it is still unclear the means of how will they push away the organizations that are listed on Terrorist Lists in the area. Especially, that there is a need to remove all weapons and deploy their Russian and Turkish forces.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Gawish Oglu, said today that the buffer zone will be implemented as of October 15, so that heavy weapons will be removed from the area agreed upon. Also, it will be purged from the extremists as he called them, to keep the civilians in the area with implementing a full ceasefire. Furthermore, Ankara has deliberately used the elements of the National Liberation Front (FNL) with their light weapons in the area for police forces and for the maintenance of security.
Foreign Fighters and Daesh (ISIS)
It is worth mentioning that the meeting did not address the fate of foreign fighters and “jihadist” groups in Syria. To date, there has been no indication that these groups intend to comply with the outcomes of the Sochi summit, which raises the question of how the countries concerned will implement the agreement or the roadmap. This is especially since until now there has been no sign that the Sham/Nasra Liberation Organization is going to dissolve itself or become part of the moderate factions sponsored by Ankara. It again raises fears that the parties themselves will be forced to carry out a military operation. Albeit it is limited to the implementation of the disarmament process from the buffer zone. If Turkey succeeds in persuading the extremist armed groups to evacuate the buffer zone, it is still unclear how Ankara will deal with these factions later, especially with the foreign element, such as the organization of the religious guards of al-Qaeda and the Turkomani.
In spite of the expulsion of the organization from the province of Idlib years ago, but the data indicate that it still has a popular incubator and sleeper cells active in the region when the requested. Despite the campaigns launched by the Nasra/Sham Liberation Organization against these cells, the field sources confirm that these campaigns could not clear the area. This raises fears again that the region will witness the quality operations carried out by the organization in the event of the failure of the agreement or disturbance of the cease-fire in the region.
Whatever the Ankara plan in dealing with the jihadist groups, whether political or military, it was clear that Turkey was able to remove the specter of the military operation. This given that they were foreshadowing a humanitarian disaster and a large wave of displaced persons into its territory, apart from the security threats that could result in security threats. Especially that there was the deployment of Turkish forces in 12 observation points deep in the north of Syria. In return, the agreement enabled Moscow to ease the burden of the file of Idlib and achieve the greatest gains without engaging in a bloody military operation.
Through the final agreement Russia will be able to open the major international roads, which would represent a great achievement for Moscow since meddling with Syria. In addition to the buffer zone will implement removing all threats of drone aircraft from the base of Hameimim. It will also ensure that no attacks on the regime forces and disturb the stability sought by the Russian to impose in the areas of Homs, Hama and Lattakia. And finally put the file of the “jihadist” groups and the complexities and consequences of the full custody of Ankara after the danger of its bases and bases of allies.
* Researcher at the Arab Progress Center for Policies – London