A Kremlin spokesman said on February 15 that the new Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib do not include a military operation in the northern Syrian governorate.
“These are steps aimed at clearing Idlib from terrorist groups that now control a significant part of this territory,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to the Anadolu Agency.
The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran discussed the situation in Idlib during a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi a day earlier. The three countries agreed to take unspecified extra steps to clear Idlib of “hotbed of terrorists,” according to President Vladimir Putin.
“We should not put up with the presence of terrorist groups in Idlib … That’s why I propose we consider practical concrete steps that Russia, Turkey and Iran can take to completely destroy this hotbed of terrorists,” Reuters quoted the Russian President as saying.
More than 90% of Idlib territory is now controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria. The radical group and its allies are violating the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone agreement, that was reached last year, on a daily basis.
These new steps which will be taken by Russia, Turkey and Iran to counter the influence of HTS remain unclear. However, local observers expect that the lack of serious actions against the terrorists could encourage them to expand their influence even further.