Ankara agrees with Syria regime backers over Islamist-held Idlib

Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev said his country, Iran and Turkey will each send about 500 observers to Idlib.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that Ankara has agreed with Syrian regime's two main sponsors, Russia and Iran, to create zones of de-escalation by deploying troops in Syria's Idlib province where armed Islamist groups allied with al-Qaeda hold sway.

This development comes a week after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during Russia-led Syria talks in the central Asian nation, Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.

"In accordance with the agreement reached by the three guarantor states of the Astana meetings, observers from the three states will be deployed at the checkpoints and observation posts to be established in the security zones which will constitute the borders of the de-escalation area," said a press release on the Turkish ministry's website.

Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev said his country, Iran and Turkey will each send about 500 observers to Idlib, and the Russians will be military policemen, reported Reuters.

Al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise, al-Nusrah Front, controls much of the northwestern Idlib urban and rural areas on the Turkish border since President Bashar al-Assad's regime lost the area in 2015 to the Islamist opposition groups.

The agreement defined Turkey as the guarantor of the Idlib opposition, whereas Tehran and Moscow were that of the Damascus government.

The three countries did not declare a timeline was for the commencement of their Idlib plan.

Ankara said the observers’ mission was to prevent clashes between “the regime and the opposition forces."

The Turkish agreement with the backers of Assad against whom Ankara militarily supported the opposition was in line with its further alienation from the US-led Western camp that backs Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) fighting the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

Washington's Presidential diplomat in charge of overseeing the war on the IS, Brett McGurk in July implied Turkey was logistically helping al-Qaeda in Idlib.

Since then, Turkish pro-government media has circulated unconfirmed reports that after the capture of the de facto IS capital of Raqqa, the US has set its eyes on Idlib and would help YPG take the region from Islamists in a bid to reach the Mediterranean Sea.

Turks consider such a move as yet another step in the creation of a Greater Kurdistan, a state that would encompass Kurdish regions in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey as well.

Ankara already controls a pocket of land since 2016 in northern Syria that acts as an obstruction in front of YPG's ambitions of uniting the isolated Kurdish region of Afrin north of Idlib with the rest of the self-declared Kurdish-led autonomy.


Editing by Ava Homa