Russian-Turkish disagreement over reducing military presence in Syria’s Idlib

ISTANBUL, Syria (North Press) – On Wednesday, Russia called on Turkey to reduce its military presence in Idlib, northwestern Syria.

Turkish and Russian military delegations held a meeting in Ankara during which they will discussed developments in the situation in Idlib, Syria.

The Russian “RIA Novosti” agency reported that the ongoing consultations between Moscow and Ankara regarding the situation in the de-escalation zone in Idlib deal with reducing the level of the Turkish military presence there.

The agency quoted a Turkish source as saying that during the meeting, a Russian technical delegation presented proposals on reducing the number of Turkish army observation points in Idlib.

The two sides were unable to reach an agreement in this regard, according to the source. The Russians offered to remove the Turkish observation points from Idlib, but Turkey insisted on maintaining them.

Accordingly, the decision was made to reduce the number of Turkish troops present in Idlib and to withdraw heavy weapons from the area, according to what the source told the Russian agency.

A state of tension prevails between Russia and Turkey, which has begun to unfold with regard to Idlib.

Samer Elias, a political analyst specializing in Russian affairs, said that the reason for the dispute was “most likely” a technical reason due to Russian concerns about the inability to protect joint patrols, particularly after the targeting of previous patrols which injured Russian soldiers.

Elias, who resides in Russia, told North Press he believed that there were no serious differences between Russia and Turkey regarding the strategy in Idlib and what it includes.

The joint strategy in Idlib includes stabilizing the region, completing the separation and elimination of terrorist elements and organizations, and implementing the 2018 Sochi Agreement and the last memorandum of understanding on March 2020.

Elias pointed out that opening the M4 and M5 highways was a Russian priority that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov identified in his press conference in Damascus.

He gave a clear signal that the time for military operations in Idlib and northeastern Syria was over, and that Russia is working well in coordination with Turkey to implement the understandings signed between them.

Regarding the first joint military maneuvers between the two parties, Elias indicated that the maneuvers are part of an integrated strategy for “specific and limited” operations to eliminate the most radical elements who could obstruct this strategy.

Despite all Russian pressure exerted on Idlib, Turkish silence continues to prevail, contrary to statements issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan’s statements during the past period warned of any violations that may affect Idlib or turn it into an arena of conflict.

On Tuesday, Russian forces did not participate in a scheduled joint patrol on the M4 highway, despite their previous insistence on holding the road.

Mustafa Nuaimi, a political analyst concerned with Turkish affairs, said that there was no doubt that running the Turkish patrols alone would have great consequences.

Nuaimi, a resident of Turkey’s Antakya, indicated that one of these consequences was the targeting process carried out by some armed groups that have been announced recently.

These armed groups claimed the targeting of the joint Russian-Turkish patrols on the international road in Idlib.

On August 25, Russian and Turkish forces were attacked by unknown persons while carrying out a joint patrol on the M4 road, which led to the injury of two Russian soldiers.

On August 17, a Turkish vehicle was targeted by a guided missile after the patrol reached the area between the city of Ariha and the town of Tel Musaybeen in Idlib.

On July 14, a car bomb exploded near Russian forces near the city of Ariha on the road between Aleppo and Latakia. The blast came during a joint patrol with Turkish forces, wounding three Russian soldiers.

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