Turkish officers meet SNA leaders to unify factions in Syria

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Turkish officers and intelligence services (MIT) met on Wednesday leaders of the Turkish-backed armed Syrian opposition factions, known as Syrian National Army (SNA), to touch on the issue of forming a new military council and a unified security and civil administration in areas under their control in northern Syria.

The meeting was held in the city of Gaziantep, south Turkey, a number of factional leaders did not attend on Turkish orders. 

A military source told North Press that the meeting was attendant by leaders of the Third Legion, Hayat Thaeroon for Liberation, Hamza Division and al-Amshat.

The source added, the call made by Turkey to unify the factions in under one military body has been met with rejection by the SNA leaders, owing to financial reasons and challenging their absolute power in the areas under their control in north Syria.

“Turkish officers proposed to unify military and security formation(s) and to create an overall civil administration in all areas under one control in north Syria,” according to the source who added they were threatened [if the proposal is rejected] to allow Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS- formerly al-Nusra Front) expansion in the area. 

The Turkish officers did not eye the HTS’s extension in Afrin and other areas in the countryside of Aleppo negatively. They did not affirm the necessity of expelling HTS’s general security apparatus from Afrin and its countryside, according to the source.

On October 13, HTS took control over Afrin following clashes with the Third Legion, a faction of the Turkish-backed factions known as Syrian National Army (SNA), that was forced to retreat towards the city of Azaz and its countryside.

clashes ended with HTS’s control of Kafr Janneh with a partial withdrawal towards Idlib conditioned that the Third Legion not enter Afrin that remains under HTS’s security bodies and the allied factions.

The General Security Apparatus of HTS controlled all aspects of life in Afrin in cooperation with allied factions such as Hamza Division, al-Amshat and Levant Legion.

“The aim of such a body is to proceed fighting Kurdish forces and to expand Turkey’s security border belt,” the source quoted Turkish officers as saying.

Owing to factional infighting and differences, leaders of such factions were held accountable for the delay in taking military acts against the Syrian democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground and protecting Turkish borders, the source noted.

The source ruled out that the idea could meet success, owing to factional differences and struggle over leadership among leaders.  

However, creating such a body would damage interests of leaders who earn huge amounts of money from crossings that are used in smuggling drugs and humans trafficking in coordination with Syrian government forces and the pro-Iranian militias not to mention losing their posts and power in the areas they control, according to the source.

Another meeting is expected to take place next week to discuss more details on the Turkish proposal.

Reporting by Hani Salem