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Reports point to Turkish-Russian differences over Syria’s Idlib deal

Published: Updated:

Well-informed sources reported that differences surrounding the implementation of Idlib’s deal in Syria have arisen between Moscow and Ankara.

The deal calls for the creation of a buffer zone to be established by October 15 from which all fighters must withdraw to allow joint Russian-Turkish patrols.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the differences surrounds four points related to the implementation of the deal which was reached between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on September, 17. Read more

Russia and Turkey have agreed to create a “demilitarized zone” around Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, Putin said on Monday after lengthy talks with Erdogan.

“We have decided to create a demilitarized zone some 15 to 20 kilometers deep along the line of contact between the armed opposition and regime troops by October 15 of this year,” he said.

According to the sources, the first difference surrounds the depth of the demilitarized zone which is between 15 to 20 kilometers, where Moscow is trying to annex to it Idlib and other major cities, which Ankara opposes.

Also Russia would want to put both roads connecting between Aleppo-Lattakia and Aleppo-Hama under the Syrian regime’s control before the end of the year, while Ankara wants them to be under a joint Russian-Turkish patrols.

The third difference surrounding the deal is the fate of the extremist groups, with Ankara wishing to move them to Kurdish territories, whereas Moscow holds to the “option of fighting the foreigners among them.”

The two sides differ on the duration of the Sochi agreement, which Moscow wants to be temporary in certain areas such as reducing the escalation in Daraa, Gauta, Damascus and Homs, while Turkey wants a permanent pact in the east of Euphrates.

Ankara and Moscow hope the Russian-Turkish-French-German summit next month will resolve differences over Idlib. Full story

The agreement provided for the establishment of a buffer zone in opposition areas in northern Syria, and not within the lines of contact between the forces of the regime and the opposition.

It also included a timetable for the withdrawal of heavy weapons by October 10, and the elimination of extremists in the next five days following that.

The sources said Moscow had informed Tehran, Damascus and Ankara that “if the deadlines are not met, military operations and air strikes will begin immediately.”

Lavrov met with his counterparts from Iran and Turkey this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss next steps in the agreement on Idlib.

Iran and Russia provide vital military support for Syrian forces, while Turkey supports armed groups. The three countries last year set up the Astana group, which has largely eclipsed UN efforts in Syria.

UN diplomats say the agreement between Russia and Turkey to avert an offensive in Idlib has created an opportunity to jumpstart political talks.

On Thursday, seven countries including the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt urged UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to urgently set up a committee on drafting a post-war constitution for Syria.

But Lavrov said preparations for the committee should not be rushed.

“We know that pressure is being applied to Staffan de Mistura,” said Lavrov, adding that “it would be a grave mistake” to force the warring sides to begin work without an agreement.

More than 360,000 people have died in the war in Syria, now in its eighth year, and millions have been uprooted.

With AFP