The Syrian authorities have begun renovating the entrance of the M4 highway which links the port city of Lattakia with Aleppo city, the country’s industrial hub.
According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), workshops are removing barriers and blockades from the highway entrance. The road itself is going under maintenance.
“The renovation covered approximately 40 km from the entrance to Lattakia and about 7 km remained within the administrative boundaries of the governorate, we will move to there in the coming days, if conditions permit,” Lattakia’s governor, Ibrahim al-Salem, told the state-run agency on March 10.
The M4 is blocked by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its Turkish-backed allies. The militants control a 75 km strip of the highway, stretching between Saraqib city in the southeastern Idlib countryside and the town of Ay al-Bayda’ in the northern countryside of Lattakia.
Last week Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to reopen the highway. Turkey is expected to establish a 6 km safe zone to the north of the highway, while Russia should set a similar zone to the south.
In addition to these safe zones, Russian and Turkish forces are set to begin joint patrols on the M4 highway on March 15.
While Syria, Russia and Turkey appear to be confident that the the M4 will be reopened, this will not likely be easy. HTS, which had rejected the Russian-Turkish agreement, could sabotage these efforts. The group is reportedly preparing a large-scale attack to push government forces further away from the M4.
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