According to reports by both Russia and Turkey, the Idlib ceasefire appears to be holding somewhat stable.
On March 9th, the Russian reconciliation center registered two violations, either from the Turkistan Islamic Party or Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which Turkey officially doesn’t support. The Turkish-backed “moderate opposition” didn’t carry out any violations according to reports.
Units of the Russian military police provided 13 Turkish convoys with escorts to the locations of the observation posts of the Turkish armed forces located in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
- On March 10th, the Russian reconciliation center registered two violations again, from the same groups reportedly. Russian military police escorted 4 Turkish convoys to observation posts in Idlib.
- On March 11th, eight violations were registered, by the same militant groups. Russian military police escorted 7 Turkish convoys to observation posts in Idlib.
It is questionable how that will happen, since the leader of the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front, Jaber Ali Basha said that his group would not vacate the area.
Leader of the Turkish-backed "National Liberation Front" , Jabe rAli Basha, said on his Twitter account, "We will remain attached to our land, neither surrender nor surrender to any inch." stressing that it won´t withdraw south of M4.
— Rojava Network (@RojavaNetwork) March 11, 2020
Interfax reported that the Turkish and Russian ministries of defense communicated on the situation in Idlib.
“Issues related to the implementation of the additional protocol to the memorandum on stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone (adopted in Moscow on March 5, 2020) were discussed,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the telephone conversation took place at the initiative of the Turkish side.
On March 10th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a positive assessment to the process of fulfilling the agreements between Ankara and Moscow to normalize the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib.
On the same day, the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria (part of the Russian Federation in Syria) reported that the Russian and Turkish military have created a special permanent communication channel on Idlib.
“Over the past day, the Russian military police have secured 13 Turkish convoys to the locations of the observation posts of the Turkish armed forces located in the Idlib de-escalation zone,” Rear Admiral Oleg Zhuravlev, head of the Russian center, said the day before.
Despite that, Turkey remains adamant that if the ceasefire is violated, Turkey would start a war with Syria.
“Turkey will do more than mere retaliation if its observation posts in Idlib are targeted,” Erdogan said.
“We are closely monitoring the deployment of the [Bashar al-Assad] regime and allied militants near the cease-fire lines,” he said.
On talks between Turkish and Russian military officials on starting joint patrols in Idlib, under the terms of a cease-fire reached last week, Akar said: “The Russian military delegation arrived and talks continue. We reached a great deal of agreement.”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkish troops in Idlib would not leave.
“Our forces have been ordered to act accordingly if the cease-fire is violated and attacks continue. Everyone is ready at any moment […] We will continue to restart where we left off and hurt them [Assad regime forces],” Akar said.
On March 12, the Kremlin also reported that Turkish and Russian presidents hold a phone call discussing the situation in Idlib. According to Russia, the sides discussed the implementation of the Moscow agreement and noted the decrease of tensions in the region.
On March 15th, the Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway, through the negotiated safety corridor are set to begin. If despite all the difficulties, Russia and Turkey will be able to create a real security zone along the M5 highway and start joint patrols in the area, this will be a major breakthrough in the de-escalation efforts in Greater Idlib. If this does not happen, a new military escalation in the region will be expected in the mid-term future.
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