Why Idlib military scenario abandoned

Why Idlib military scenario abandoned

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed at the meeting in Sochi to create a demilitarized zone along the line of contact between Syrian government forces and armed opposition units in the Syrian province of Idlib by October 15, while the defense ministers of the two countries signed a memorandum on stabilizing the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

The chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Commission on Information Policy, Alexei Pushkov, explained the essence of this agreement: "A demilitarized zone in Idlib means a pause in military confrontation. It is very difficult to solve the problem of this province even technically. There are some 30,000-70,000 militants there, according to various sources. About 14-15 thousand of them are Jabhat al-Nusra militants, that is, renamed Al-Qaeda. Militants from other regions - Hama, Homs, Palmyra, other places that were liberated by the Syrian army - were brought there. Everyone who wanted to leave did it. Now either the most fanatical, or the most motivated for some other reasons people - financial, those who have nowhere to go, or those who committed so many crimes that they will not be forgiven, left in Idlib. Anyway, it is the most radical part of the militants. This is the first difficulty."

The second difficulty, according to Pushkov, is that it is not clear what to do with these fighters from Idlib.

The third is that the armed opposition concentrated in Idlib feels the political support of the United States, the Western coalition and the Middle Eastern states, which supported those fighting Assad.

"These three factors complicate the Idlib settlement. Two million civilians live there, and extensive military actions will seriously damage the civilian population. Taking into account all these factors and the fact that Russia, Iran and Turkey has no unified position on it, an agreement has been reached between Putin and Erdogan to abandon the military scenario to resolve this issue," Pushkov explained.

However, according to him, the rejection of the military scenario still leaves the question of Idlib's future open: "A hotbed of armed opposition cannot be in the territory of Syria forever. I do not think that the armed opposition will live there peacefully, cultivating the land, restoring communications and turning into civilians. They are militants, they will not agree with a passive stay on the territory of Idlib. Therefore, there will be some provocations. That is, an attempt to avoid a military scenario is justified. Russia and Turkey have different positions, but we preferred to five common language instead of stating differences."

At the same time, Pushkov acknowledged that the Idlib problem continues to exist  in a longer term: "This is an interim solution, which allows us at the moment to give up military operations and see how the situation will develop further. But it is quite obvious that the government in Damascus, which is gradually regaining control over the territory of the country, may not agree with the preservation of quasi-state structure in the territory of Syria. In short, this is an important tactical agreement on the path to a peaceful solution to the Idlib issue".

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