On May 15, Ibrahim al-Idlabi, a military advisor to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), revealed to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi that Russia, Iran and Turkey are preparing to reopen the strategic highways (Hama-Aleppo) and (Aleppo-Afrin), which pass through the opposition-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo governorates.
According to al-Idlabi, a joint force of these three countries will open the two highways, secure a 10km wide area on their sides and conduct patrols on them. The two highways will be open for civilian and commercial traffic.
Enab Baladi said that Russia, Iran and Turkey had agreed to open these two highways during a previous round of the Astana talks. However, the three countries didn’t set a timeline to fulfill the agreement, likely because the priority was to conduct anti-ISIS operations.
Now, it appears that the three countries are ready to employ this plan, especially that the ISIS pocket southwestern Aleppo was eliminated. The Turkish Army also imposed its control over the Afrin area and established the agreed upon observation posts in northern Syria.
Syrian pro-government activists doubt that this optimistic plan could be executed on the ground due to the presence of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls large parts of the Hama-Aleppo highway. However, observers believe that Turkey may be able to pressure HTS into accepting the plan, the way it has accepted the observation posts.