Russia-Turkey Agreement and Prospect of Sustained Ceasefire in Idlib

2020/03/14 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online: An expert on Middle East affairs said that the ceasefire agreement between Russia and Turkey is more likely to be in Syria's favour. He said, given Turkey's plight in Syria as well as the capability of the Syrian government and army to drive foreign forces out of their country, Turkey has to accept a new agreement.

Seyed Reza Sadr al-Hosseini, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said that after about a month from Turkish military intervention in Syria and the casualties inflicted on Turkish troops and pro-Ankara terrorists, the country was finally forced to conclude a diplomatic ceasefire agreement. He said: “Let’s not forget that given the claims Turkey had on the Syrian geography and soil it did not spare any efforts in supporting the terrorist groups on Syrian soil over the past eight years.”

He added that Turkey thought it would be able to seize parts of Syrian territory in a short period and realize some of its post-Ottomanism illusions. But with the recent actions of the Syrian army and popular forces, the Turkish bid was thwarted. Due to international and domestic pressure on the incumbent Turkish government, they were forced to seek the dialogue and reach an agreement.

“One of the most important issues in this agreement is Turkey’s obligation to respect the integrity of Syria based on the Astana Agreement and to prevent escalation of the crisis,” the Middle East affairs expert said, referring to the terms of the ceasefire agreement: Points that Turkey was not very interested to fulfil.

He added that the two sides agreed to help all the people of the region without any discrimination, adding: “Turkey has so far only assisted its forces in this regard and did not allow humanitarian aid to reach ordinary people because of terrorist operations and during this time, terrorists used ordinary people as human shields.

Eventually, Putin and Erdogan agreed to “cease all military actions along the line of contact”, establish a security corridor 6 kilometres (nearly 4 miles) deep to the north and 6 kilometres deep to the south from highway M4; and, starting March 15, to launch joint Turkish-Russian patrols along highway M4 from the settlement of Trumba (2 kilometres, or roughly a mile, to the west of Saraqeb) to the settlement of Ain al-Havr. The deal is believed not to be in Ankara’s interest as it will block Turkey’s advance inside Syrian soil.

According to UN Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 2017, adopted in 2018, agreements must be made by the sponsoring countries, including Iran, Russia and Turkey, which emphasizes the sovereignty, independence, unity and integrity of Syrian territory.

Noting that Turkey suffered the most loss in the Syrian crisis, the analyst said that despite the material, intellectual and prestige investments it made in this respect, it reaped the least benefit and made the highest loss to the extent that minorities and political groups in Turkey have also strongly protested to the government’s recent actions. Concerning the casualties suffered by the Turkish troops in the Syrian soil, the Ankara government has no clear answer to the families of victims and political parties in Turkey.

Sadr al-Hosseini said that the ceasefire agreement was more in favour of Syria, adding: “If Turkey does not accept this commitment it has, in fact, gained nothing. Given Turkey’s plight, as well as the ability and incentive of the Syrian government and army to expel foreign forces from their country, Ankara authorities have to accept the deal, as Turkey has already tested its non-compliance with Sochi and Astana accords and has been forced to accept the new agreement without making any gains out of it.

Regarding the future of the war between the Syrian army and the terrorists in Idlib in light of this latest agreement, he said: “A ceasefire agreement has been announced and Syria is committed to it. The situation in Syria has improved significantly over the past two months, and it has been able to clear a significant portion of its territory from terrorists. Certainly, given the Sochi and Astana agreements and the emphasis on this recent accord on Syria’s territorial integrity and its political sovereignty over a given period, the issue of terrorism on Syrian soil will also end.

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