Escalation in Idlib & Aleppo Countryside: No Gains for Erdogan

Updated on March 23, 2020
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Factions launched their attacks with Turkish fire support, without progress
Factions launched their attacks with Turkish fire support, without progress

Just before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan headed today to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, armed factions with Turkish artillery and missile support launched attacks on several axes in the rural areas of Aleppo and Idlib, apparently in an attempt to achieve gains that Erdogan could invest in negotiations.

Armed factions, with Turkish fire cover, attacked the axis of the city of Saraqib, by trying to advance through the village of Tarnaba, west of the city, in the southeastern countryside of Idlib. Also, the Qubbtan and Sheikh Aqil axis in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo were attacked. The militants failed to make any progress on the various axes of the attack, as the army was able to repel them, causing them great losses.

According to "Syrian Observatory", 28 militants were killed in the battles of the city of Saraqib axis, while information was received about the killing of dozens of militants on the Qebtan and Sheikh Aqil axis, through raids and shelling that targeted the bases for launching attacks in Darat Azza in particular. Also, the Turkish Ministry of Defense admitted to the killing of two of its soldiers and the injury of 6 others, at a time when the Syrian army announced that it was able to shoot down a Turkish plane in the vicinity of the city of Saraqib in the southern Idlib countryside.

De-escalation Zones & Ceasefire Deal With Russia

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he expects, with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to reach a ceasefire quickly in the "de-escalation" region of Idlib. In his answer to a question about whether the Turkish side had received any proposals before his visit to Russia, he pointed out that "there are no proposals at the moment, to conduct our visit first, and we will hold a press conference with Mr. Putin after the meeting."

In turn, Turkish Defense Minister Khulusi Akar pointed out that Erdogan will present to Putin "Turkey's demands, goals and proposals regarding the situation in Idlib province." Akar added, in front of the headquarters of the Turkish parliament in Ankara, that "his country's goal is to find a peaceful and political solution to the Syrian crisis," noting that "the agreements concluded with Russia on Idlib face several problems, and President Erdogan will discuss with Putin ways to end those problems."

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed, on the eve of the summit, with the permanent members of the Russian Security Council, the situation in Idlib, and the Russian-Turkish relations, according to what was announced by the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. On a parallel line of thought, Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, held talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on developments in Idlib. Zarif called for "holding the summit of the guarantors of the Astana course on the Syrian crisis as soon as possible." The Iranian minister announced, in statements broadcast by state television, that this "summit will be held in Iran", considering that "the Astana process is the only mechanism that has been able to reduce the intensity of violence in Syria and has moved the Syrian crisis towards stability alongside the fight against terrorism."

Iran has announced that the summit of the guarantors of the Astana process will be held on its soil.

Violation of the Sochi Agreement

On the other hand, the Russian Ministry of Defense denounced Western and international accusations that the Syrian government is committing "war crimes".

"The Western countries and the United Nations have not seemed bothered at all by the grave violations of the 2018 Sochi Memorandum on Idlib, committed by Turkey and the terrorist groups present there, which are represented in the increasing bombing of neighboring Syrian regions and al-Qaeda," the ministry's spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement published yesterday.

The Russians are strengthening the grip of terrorists from the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, the Turkestan Party, and the Guardians of Religion over the region. Their positions blend with Turkish observation points instead of driving them out of the region and separating them from the moderate opposition. Konashenkov reiterated that "the operation of the Syrian army in Idlib is the implementation of the Sochi Agreement."

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Hafiz Muhammad Adnan

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