Turkish forces withdraw from points and re-position in Idlib

The Turkish newspaper, “Hurriyet”, sheds light on the changes that Idlib has witnessed in recent times, especially with the withdrawal of Turkish forces from observation points and their stationing in other places.

“Hurriyet” newspaper said in a report, that the agreement reached between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on March 5, was largely determined how things would go in Idlib.

“Hurriyet” newspaper added that Sochi agreement is no longer valid, saying that, a new balance in Idlib has been devolved from the old situation formed by the Sochi Agreement signed on September 17, 2018, which became invalid due to the hot conflicts that continued until the end of last February.

In a quick account, the newspaper mentioned that in the Astana process in 2017, between Turkey, Russia and Iran, it was agreed to declare Idlib a “demilitarized” zone, and as a result, the Turkish forces established 12 observation points in the region, but with the outbreak of the conflict again, Erdogan and Putin reached an agreement, a New (Sochi) 2018 for the Idlib ceasefire.

And despite the Sochi agreement, the Syrian army’s operations continued in Idlib, and with the support of the Russian Air Force, it began to restore the “M5” highway linking Aleppo to the south with the capital, Damascus, in gradual progress since the summer of 2019.

By last February, the Syrian army began approaching north towards the M4 highway linking Aleppo to the west and the Mediterranean, and fragility appeared during clashes that occurred in the same month on a line on one side of which the opposition and Turkey are located, and the other side is the Syrian army and Russia in Saraqib area located at the “M4” and “M5” intersection.

As a result of the clashes that witnessed severe from Russia and the Syrian army, a joint aerial bombardment targeted a convoy of Turkish forces, which led to the killing of 34 soldiers in the village of Balyun, three kilometers northwest of al Bara, on February 27, which accelerated the arrival of the March 5 agreement in Moscow, which led to the suspension of field developments, and the registration of a new situation, with the formation of a safe zone north and south of “M4” and the withdrawal of heavy weapons in possession of the opposition from the area in order to secure the international road.

The newspaper pointed out that the agreement stopped the advance of the Syrian army towards the north in “M4”, and stopped the mass migration of civilians towards the Turkish borders, and the region became a buffer zone between the parties.

The newspaper indicated that the agreement raised a critical question, which is the fate of the Turkish observation points east of the international road “or M4”, especially after the Syrian army forces took control of the areas in which they are concentrated?

The newspaper added that the map (attached to the report) shows the area that the Syrian army forces captured from the opposition in Idlib with Russian support in the operation that began in the summer of 2019 and continued until the end of last February 2020, and it is clear that the opposition lost nearly half Idlib for the Syrian army.

The newspaper pointed out that eight of the 12 points in the new situation that have been established according to the Moscow agreement (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) are inside the areas controlled by the Syrian army, and it poses a security threat to the Turkish forces, especially at the level of the supply line.

That after Idlib’s status as a “non-conflict” zone ended, the observation posts had, in fact, lost their function.

She added that about two months ago, Turkey began evacuating observation post (9) in Morek, in the far south of Idlib, to be joined later in the past weeks, as 7 new observation points were evacuated.

The newspaper stated that the control points (3) and (4) in the northeast, and points (5, 8, 9 and 10) in the southeast were evacuated from the “M5” highway.

It revealed that the withdrawal process is continuing from points (6 and 7) east of the international road “M5”, and in the coming days it will be closed completely.

The newspaper pointed out that the observation points (1 and 2) below Afrin to the north, point (12) to the west of “M4”, and point (11) in the Jisr al Shughour area continue their activities as areas not under the control of the Syrian army.

The newspaper pointed out that the forces withdrawing from the observation points, their new mission is concentrated in the buffer zone down the international road “M4”, between the safe passage that was established and the opposition factions are present, and the area where the Syrian army forces are stationed (according to the map).

And what is happening in the movement of the Turkish forces, it is called the process of “displacement” and “redeployment,” noting that the number of Turkish forces at the previous observation points ranges between (80 and 200) depending on the location, and it can be said that the Turkish army has strengthened the new issue His forces are on the ground inside Idlib, with the formation of a checkpoint in front of the Syrian army.

In conclusion, the newspaper quoted sources as saying that the new arrangement in Idlib and the repositioning of the Turkish forces were largely in agreement with Russia.