The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan in Moscow ended with the conclusion of an armistice agreement in Idlib. But will the agreements affect the real situation in this Syrian province?
The truce in Idlib officially came at 00:00 on March 6, 2020. A six-kilometer-wide safety corridor is being created around the M4 highway, and by March 15, Russian and Turkish troops should organize joint patrols in this area. It was the Hama-Aleppo highway that they planned to take control of the Syrian government forces, which launched an offensive in February 2020.
Just an hour before the ceasefire began, militants fired from the Aleppo-Damascus highway with artillery, destroying at least five cars. Syrian government forces repelled the attacks of militants in the area of the village of Dadih and prevented another attack to repel Serakib.
However, after the start of the ceasefire, the Syrian Arab army stopped all military operations in the designated area. The Turkish troops are also observing a ceasefire while preparing to jointly patrol the territory around the highway with the Russian military.
At the same time, in the northern region of Idlib, movements of Turkish troops were noticed. According to Aleppo AMC, a convoy of armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and trucks passed through the Kafr-Lusin border crossing and headed to the southern part of the province, in the direction of the observation posts of the Turkish armed forces.
But it should be understood that the militants who operate in Idlib province are not formally subordinate to the Turkish military command and can still carry out armed attacks and provocations. Moreover, they, as has already happened before, can generally use the ceasefire to strengthen their positions in the province of Idlib. In the event that any questions arise regarding the observance of the ceasefire, Ankara will answer that the Syrian opposition’s formations are not subordinate to the Turkish command, and accordingly there are no levers of influence on them.
It is clear that for Turkey, good relations with Russia are still more important than demonstrating integrity in the issue of the situation in the Syrian province. But one must understand that the radical groups operating in the north of Syria for many years will not give up their positions and the areas they control will not yield to government troops.
In addition, the truce concerns only the province of Idlib, and in other provinces of Syria, including in the north of the country, clashes between government forces and various armed groups continue, as skirmishes between the radical groups themselves continue.
Accordingly, the problem is simply frozen for a certain period, but not resolved. And Turkey, at least as long as Recep Erdogan is in power in the country, will not give up support for Turkoman and Arab-Sunni forces in northern Syria. In order to provide this support, it is absolutely not necessary to take a direct part in the conflict, it is enough to transfer weapons, ammunition and “volunteers”, which may be the same cadre military personnel of the Turkish army.
There is no doubt that the ceasefire will be violated by radical groups, which means that the Syrian government forces will have to react to these violations sooner or later. Therefore, one can hardly count on the long term of the ceasefire.
The future of Idlib is closely connected with the future of all of Syria as a single state, and, as you know, it is torn by internal contradictions of an ethnic and religious nature, to which the economic and political interests of a number of other states join.