On January 11, Russia warned groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the prominent figures of the Syrian opposition in the northern Homs countryside that the de-escalation agreement there is about to end, according to several Syrian opposition news outlets.
Bassam al-Sawah, spokesman of the negotiations committee of the opposition factions in the northern Homs countryside, told the Syrian opposition news outlet Geroun that Russia informed them that the de-escalation agreement in northern Homs will end in mid-February.
Al-Sawah also revealed that the negotiation committee agreed to hold another round of talks with Russia to reach a new agreement. However, al-Sawah claimed that Russia and the Damascus government are planning to increase the pressure on the opposition factions in northern Homs during the upcoming talks to accept a full reconciliation agreement in their region.
Furthermore, the northern Homs countryside negotiation committee refused any direct negotiations with the Damascus government and insisted that they will only negotiate with the Russian side, according to al-Sawah.
Many Syrian oppositions activists viewed the Russian warning as a sign of the upcoming military operation of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to expel Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham from northern Homs. However, according to experts, such operation would be possible only after the SAA finishes its advance in southern Idlib.
The de-escalation agreement in the northern Homs countryside was agreed upon on August 3, 2017. Since then most of the FSA groups in the region broke the agreement and conducted attacks against the SAA and its allies.