Syrian jihadist groups in Idlib are rejecting the Turkish-Russian Idlib deal.
The jihadist faction, Huras al-Din has already rejected the agreement that requires radical terrorist insurgents in Idlib to withdraw from a demilitarized zone. Huras al-Din urged other jihadist factions to launch new military operations.
Huras al-Din is not the main Islamist militant group in Idlib, but its statement points to objections that may complicate the implementation of the agreement signed last week by Russia and Turkey.
The most powerful jihadist terrorist group in the northwest, Tahrir al-Sham (aka Al Nusra, aka Al Qaeda), has yet to declare its stance on the Idlib deal, under which terrorist jihadist groups must vacate the demilitarized zone by October 15th.
Tahrir al-Sham said on Monday that it will announce its position on the Idlib agreement in the next few days, with its acceptance or rejection vital to the success of efforts to contain the war.
According to Reuters, Tahrir al-Sham’s stance will be critical to last week’s deal which has, for now, averted a full-scale Syrian government offensive in Idlib, which along with adjacent areas of the northwest is the rebels’ last major foothold.
“An official statement will be issued soon,” after the group held internal consultation on the deal, said Emad al-Din, media officer for Tahrir al-Sham. He clarified that “soon” meant within a few days.
Tahrir al-Sham was formed in early 2017 as an alliance of jihadist factions including the former al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front and it has a large armed presence throughout Idlib, including along the Turkish border.
A smaller, harder line jihadist faction in Idlib, Huras al-Din, has rejected the agreement and urged rebels to launch new military operations.
An alliance of Turkey-allied rebel groups, the National Front for Liberation, has declared its “complete cooperation” with the Turkish effort, but has also ruled out disarming or yielding territory.
The demilitarized zone agreed by Turkey and Russia will be 15 to 20 km (10 to 12 miles) deep and run along the contact line between rebel and government fighters. It will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that all opposition heavy weapons, mortars, tanks and rocket systems are to be removed from the zone by October 10th.
Close to 3 million people live in Idlib, around half of them Syrians displaced by the war from other parts of Syria, and the United Nations has warned that an offensive would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the Idlib Agreement between Russia and Turkey. The deal averts a bloody conflict in Idlib for now, but in the long run, northwest Syria, under Turkish control, may end up being a permanent breeding and training ground for Al Qaeda forces…with all the blowback that entails, not only for the Syrian state, but for Europe and the United States of America.
Turkish military vehicles have entered Idlib after militants snubbed an agreement between Turkey and Russia for the creation of a buffer zone in the northwestern Syrian province, the last major militant stronghold in the Arab country.
The 30-strong convoy of vehicles entered the province “overnight,” AFP reported Monday, describing the vehicles as those used for transporting troops.
The agreement over the buffer zone was reached during a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Under the deal, a demilitarized zone of 15-20 kilometers will have to be created in Idlib along the contact line between the militants and Syrian government troops by October 15.
The deal also involves the withdrawal of “radically-minded” militants, including the al-Qaeda-linked ones, from the region.
Erdogan said both Turkey and Russia would carry out coordinated military patrols on the borders of the buffer zone in a bid to detect and prevent “provocation by third parties and violations of the agreement.”
On Sunday, however, Turkish-backed militants rejected to either lay down their arms or surrender the territory under their control.
“We will not abandon our weapons, our land or our revolution” against Syrian government forces, said the so-called National Liberation Front (NLF).
Turkey, along with Iran and Russia, has been serving as a mediator in talks between the Syrian government and the opposition since 2017, negotiating on the militants’ side.
Idlib is considered to be the last theater of war in Syria. Government troops have liberated the militant-held provinces one by one with the help of Syria’s allies Iran and Russia.
The Russo-Turkish agreement has suspended a concerted Syrian army operation against the militants in the province.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.