The Damascus government and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) have swapped detainees in Abu al-Zandin crossing in the eastern Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on November 24.
According to the UK-based monitoring group, the FSA released ten civilians, while the Damascus government released ten detainees from its prisons. Some of the detainees released by the government are reportedly pro-opposition fighters.
“Ten civilians were freed … nine men and a woman, who were abducted by terrorist groups a while ago from several areas in Aleppo’s countryside,” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said in a short press release confirming the detainees swap.
Later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey revealed that the swap was part of a pilot project prepared by a working group formed under the Astana process by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the U.N.
“Constituting an important first step within the context of building confidence among the conflicting parties in Syria, this practice is aimed to be continued with new initiatives,” the Turkish MoFA said in an official statement.
The upcoming few months will likely witness similar swaps. However, these deals will be limited to the Turkish-held areas in northern Syria, as the radical groups in the governorate of Idlib and its surroundings are still refusing any peaceful initiative.