Turkey’s Foreign Minister accused members of the US-led coalition of supporting Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in an attempt to sabotage the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone agreement on the governorate of Idlib.
“Certain partners from the coalition support HTS… First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper on January 31.
The Turkish minister also claimed that some members of the coalition are paying HTS for violations of the demilitarized zone agreement. This was the first time when a senior Turkish official publicly acknowledged that militants are violating the agreement.
A 15-20km demilitarized zone was supposed to be established within the opposition-held areas around Idlib. Despite the presence of Turkish observation posts there, the efforts to establish the zone have resulted in no significant progress.
“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them [HTS militants] from there”, Cavusoglu revealed.
Cavusoglu added that the Turkish military presence in Idlib has encouraged many foreign militants to abandon the radical group. However, their countries are still refusing to take them back.
These remarks coincided with the visit of a Turkish military delegation to Moscow, where several issues related to Syria, including the situation in Idlib, will be discussed.
Turkey’s stand on Idlib appears to be shifting as a result of Russian pressure and HTS’ continued attempts to expand its influence in the areas controlled by Turkish-backed groups.