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Russian-Turkish Dispute during Negotiations over Idlib

Russian-Turkish Dispute during Negotiations over Idlib

Thursday, 22 August, 2019 - 06:30
A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province on August 19, 2019 (AFP/Omar HAJ KADOUR)
Moscow - Raed Jabr
Russian and Turkish delegations have disagreed on deployment of forces in the north and south of northwestern Syria’s Idlib province because of a dispute between the two countries on the implementation of the de-escalation deal.

Moscow kept silence on Wednesday concerning the ongoing military talks with Ankara on the situation in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold.

The Russian Defense Ministry avoided issuing details on the discussions while leaked reports signaled a Turkish request to keep its 12 observation points in Idlib in return for opening the Damascus-Aleppo international highway.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Moscow aims to introduce changes to the roadmap of the de-escalation area in Idlib.

Russian Defense Ministry sources revealed that there are ongoing talks with Ankara, but that the discussions have failed to come up with clear positions.

Turkish and Russian sources spoke about talks to keep the No. 9 Morek observation post in Idlib with the establishment of two new observation points in the north and west of the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Also, the sources said the two sides agreed that Syrian regime forces withdraw from the areas that they have recently regained in the town of Habeet in the countryside of southern Idlib.

They said Ankara placed those conditions in return for its willingness to discuss opening the Damascus-Aleppo highway.

Other sources from the Syrian opposition said that during the ongoing talks with Russia, Turkey was trying to open a supply route to its observation point in Morek from the M5 highway that passes through Khan Sheikhoun and Tal al-Nimr.

A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region’s three million inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.

Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a team from the International Mine Action Center of the Armed Forces cleared more than 6,500 hectares of territory, 1,400 kilometers of roads, 12 kilometers of railways and more than 17,000 buildings and structures in Syria.

In total, over 105,000 explosive objects were discovered during this work, he added.

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