Russian-Turkish agreement in Syria’s Idlib enters its third year

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – The Russian-Turkish de-escalation agreement in Idlib, northwest Syria, entered its third year amid ongoing mutual shelling and military operations between the Syrian government forces and the Turkish-backed armed Syrian opposition factions in the region.

An agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in September 2018 and an additional protocol to the agreement on March 5, 2020, stipulates the cessation of military operations by the Russian-backed government forces and the Turkish-backed opposition factions.

The agreement also included working to open a safe corridor along the M4 Highway.

The agreement stipulated the conduct of joint patrols along the Highway, which began in the middle of the same month, between Tarnaba town, west of Saraqib and Ain al-Hour, with Turkey retaining the right to respond to the attacks of the government forces.

Agreement without implementation

Although the agreement entered into force immediately after the announcement, it was violated by both sides of the conflict, the government and the opposition, amid mutual accusations.

The mutual bombardment between the two sides did not stop according to press reports and field follow-up of North Press correspondents in Idlib. 

Idlib region issue, a month after the announcement of the agreement, witnessed successive developments in light of the expansion of the dispute that occurred between Russia and Turkey. 

The Russian-Turkish dispute began with the messages which Ankara tried to convey to Moscow that the end of the ceasefire agreement regarding Idlib could turn into a reality at any moment. 

Ankara tried to pressure Russia to accept its presence in Libya by taking advantage of the issue of ending the ceasefire in Idlib. 

This coincided with the mobilization of government forces in Zawiya Mountain, south of Idlib, in which observers indicated that the armistice between Russia and Turkey may be nearing its end.

For its part, the Turkish forces began to reinforce their military points distributed in the Idlib region. 

Increased the fears of Idlib residents about the return of battles to the area after the government mobilizations in the areas of Saraqib, Ma’arat al-Numan and Zawiya Mountain, due to the military changes that Idlib witnessed.

Intensified mutual bombardment

The pace of mutual shelling and military escalation between Syrian opposition factions and government forces intensified in late 2021, during which Russian warplanes repeatedly targeted the opposition’s fortifications. 

The Turkish silence regarding what happened in the Idlib region, especially Zawiya Mountains, of daily bombing that killed dozens, aroused the resentment of the residents in Idlib, and the fears of new deliveries that would devour the rest of the southern countryside. 

According to some press reports, there are about 13,000 Turkish soldiers, as well as 9,000 Turkish military vehicles in northwest Syria, stationed at more than 70 military points.  

Different areas of Idlib witnessed angry protests denouncing the silence of Turkish forces over the military escalation of Russia and Syrian government forces in southern Idlib, which resulted in the killing and wounding of dozens.

The protesters held banners which read, “To the Turkish guarantor, Mr. Erdogan, if you cannot protect our children, let us die quietly so that history will be written that the Turkish army is killing our children,” in addition to other phrases condemning the Turkish silence.  

The protesters surrounded more than 11 Turkish military points in Zawiya Mountain, according to local sources.  

Military sources believe that the recent developments in Idlib are only a temporary situation affected by the balance of power on the ground and the ability of each party to impose its viewpoint, while discussions and future arrangements for Russian and Turkish interests are well under way.

Reporting by Fansa Temmo