After negotiations between Russia and Turkey, relative calm reigned in Idlib

Turkey, Russia announce ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib

Russian and Turkish leaders agree to end hostilities in northwestern Syria

MOSCOW – The war-torn northwest of Syria woke up in relative calm on Friday morning, with no military planes in the sky for the first time in months, thanks to an agreement between Russia and Turkey..

According to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory and AFP correspondents in Idlib, it appears that the ceasefire, which took effect at midnight, is still ongoing..

Head of the Council Rami Abdel Rahman reported on «the complete absence of military aircraft of the regime and Russian forces in the airspace over Idlib».

According to him, there was an exchange of fire before dawn, as a result of which no one was injured, and now the parties, apparently, are observing the ceasefire..

There is also a reported clash between Syrian troops and one of the rebel groups..

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached an agreement on Thursday, after several hours of talks in Moscow..

The agreement provides for the creation of a security corridor along the M4 highway in northern Syria, where Turkish and Russian forces will begin joint patrols this month..

As Putin noted at a joint press conference after the talks, the agreements reached «serve as a good basis for ending hostilities» in Idlib and «end the suffering of civilians».

Joint patrols will operate between the town of Tronba in Idlib and a village in the government-controlled Latakia province.

The patrol, which will be the first joint initiative of Russian and Turkish forces in Idlib, is set to begin on March 15.

This day will mark nine years since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, which claimed about 400,000 lives and left about half of the country’s population homeless..

The ceasefire in Idlib must be sealed with the creation of a no-fly zone to prevent further attacks on hospitals, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Block said Friday..

«It would be wise to add a no-fly zone», – he told reporters after arriving for a meeting with colleagues from other EU countries in the capital of Croatia.

«I think European countries are ready to take a step forward… and convince all members of the UN Security Council to create a no-fly zone. It will not interfere with the fight against militants «Al-Qaeda», but will stop hitting hospitals», – added Block.

European head of diplomacy Josep Borrell on Friday welcomed the ceasefire agreement, saying that the bloc should now step up efforts to help the civilian population of Syria.

«Truce – good news. Let’s see what happens, but this is a necessary condition for increasing humanitarian aid to the residents of Idlib.», – noted Borrell before the start of the ministerial meeting in the Croatian capital.

When asked about the creation of a no-fly zone, he said: «We must focus our efforts on the humanitarian side».

The situation that developed after the negotiations for the Ruu service «Voices of America» experts comment.

Max Abrams: the truce does not solve the main problems of the conflict

Political science professor at Northeastern University Max Abrahms (Northeastern University) emphasizes that the ceasefire agreement reached does not solve the main problems of the conflict, and violence in Idlib province may resume.

«The agreement reached does not fundamentally change the state of affairs, it simply postpones the solution of problems for the future», – says the professor, noting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by the Russian side, is interested in regaining control over the entire Syrian territory, and Turkey still supports the opposition forces.

«There are no signs that Russia or Turkey is about to leave. On the contrary, both sides are actually strengthening their military positions. So yeah, now we have a truce and maybe this will reduce the amount of violence in Idlib for a while., – notes Max Abrams. – But this is a temporary measure that does not change the underlying dynamics in place.».

After negotiations between Russia and Turkey, relative calm reigned in Idlib

According to the expert, the decision of President Erdogan to buy the Russian S-400 air defense systems, despite the fact that NATO allies and the United States oppose, as well as Turkey’s support for the opposition in Syria, as opposed to Assad and Moscow, put Ankara in a difficult situation.

«The United States and NATO as a whole could have been quicker to provide military assistance to Turkey if Turkey had not sided with Russia on the purchase of the S-400. At the same time, Turkey angered Russia by sided with the rebels, or militants, in Idlib, making it difficult for Assad to consolidate power., – notes professor. – I think that Erdogan ended up in isolation and today he has no strong supporters either in the United States or in Russia.».

The rapprochement of Turkey, which is a NATO member, with Russia and the purchase of Russian S-400s have weakened support for Ankara both in the US presidential administration and in Congress, Max Abrams adds. The number of votes in Washington, which, in particular, would support the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria or the delivery of American Patriot air defense systems to Turkey, which Erdogan requested, has significantly decreased..

In general, according to the professor at Northeastern University, the United States, NATO and Turkey should not have been involved in the Syrian conflict. The international community, as noted by Max Abrams, blames exclusively the Assad regime and Russia for the deployment of the conflict in Syria, while, while supporting the Syrian opposition and the desire to overthrow the Syrian president, the international community also contributed to the arming of a number of extreme groups, which complicated and lengthened the Syrian conflict.

Bulent Aliriza: I look forward to resumption of hostilities

Bulent Aliriza (CSIS), an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, also agrees that a ceasefire does not address the fundamental problems of the Syrian conflict. The expert does not exclude the resumption of hostilities.

«The fact that Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire – this is good because it stops the violence and the people who might die today are alive. This is also very important for Turkey, because the ceasefire stops or at least slows down the flow of refugees towards the Turkish border., – expert says. – But the refugee problem is not completely disappearing, as are the factors that led to the latest military action, namely the attempt by the Syrian government to take control of the last province controlled by the opposition. Therefore, I look forward to the resumption of hostilities – not necessarily by the Turkish armed forces in Idlib, which currently number over 10,000 – or perhaps from opposition groups not affiliated with Turkey, especially Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or the Syrian government, which still wants to have control of the entire province».

The expert of the Center for Strategic and International Studies also notes that despite the fact that Moscow and Ankara adhere to different positions in the Syrian conflict, the parties are aimed at maintaining bilateral relations. Moscow, in particular, is interested in the maximum distance of Turkey from NATO.

«One of the reasons President Erdogan went to Moscow and wanted to reach a ceasefire agreement is that NATO did not come to Turkey’s aid in the Syrian conflict. Turkey lost more than 50 soldiers and found itself involved in direct conflict with the Syrian government forces, which were backed by Russian aviation. But Turkey’s consultations with NATO on Article 4 (article on consultations in the event of a threat to one of the alliance countries – V.E.) did not lead to any substantial support offered by the alliance, – notes Bulent Aliriza. – Despite the Syrian conflict, we see Erdogan’s desire to develop his relations with Russia, including the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, even if Turkey’s western allies opposed it. So, we see that Turkey is not going to spoil relations with Russia in the hope of getting support from the West.».

«Interestingly, both presidents stressed the importance of bilateral relations yesterday, even when they talked about differences over Syria.», – adds an expert.

«But Turkey’s problems have not disappeared anywhere. Four million people – refugees who are in Turkey and over a million refugees on the Turkish border on the Syrian side – this problem remains. Syria did not go beyond the observation posts that Turkey established in the framework of the 2018 Sochi Memorandum. Both the Syrian government and the opposition, in particular Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, are no doubt about to start fighting again. So all of this will remain a problem for Turkey in the coming weeks, months and perhaps even years. But President Erdogan, meanwhile, made it clear that he wants to maintain good relations with Putin.», – sums up Bulent Aliriza.

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