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Turkey Pushes for Unification of Opposition Factions, Formation of ‘National Army’

Turkey Pushes for Unification of Opposition Factions, Formation of ‘National Army’

Thursday, 26 October, 2017 - 10:30
Turkish Army tanks drive near the Syrian border. AFP file photo

Turkey succeeded in pushing the opposition factions operating in the Euphrates' Shield area to sign an agreement that includes their integration into an organized army.

A meeting was held at the headquarters of Turkey's Special Forces with the attendance of governors of Gaziantep and Kilis districts, representative of Turkey's Intelligence, Commander of Turkey's Special Forces, members of the Syrian Interim Government, Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Rahman Mustafa, and commanders of Free Syrian Army in the Euphrates Shield area.

Among the topics discussed were the handing over of all border-crossings to the interim government and the formation of a national army.

The parties agreed to hand over the border-crossings to the interim government and to form the national army from the existing groups in the Euphrates Shield forces.

The agreement signed by 43 parties also agrees to the formation of a national army consisting of three large rebel factions - Sultan Murad Legion, National Army Legion, and Levant Legion.

All groups will first hand over their weapons and vehicles to the interim Syrian government.

FSA commander Mustafa Sejari confirmed that the agreement had taken into consideration that the current stage requires the formation of a unified national army under the umbrella of the joint staff and the cancellation of all factional names.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sejari stated that Turkey's role is limited to hosting and sponsoring the agreement. He thanked Ankara for its efforts, adding that this agreement will further enhance the role of the interim government.

Meanwhile, an FSA military source pointed that the agreement to move from factional into a national army was done under a "mandatory order from Turkey".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source stated that given the fact the factions in the area are not capable of surviving without Turkey's support, they were compelled to comply with the agreement. However, Turkey's move will likely not include other areas under the control of the opposition, an indication that it may be limited to the Euphrates Shield area.

Syrian researcher Ahmed Abo Zed said this agreement faces two major challenges. First of all, the project of a national army can't be expanded to include other areas given that it is linked to the Turkish administration. The other challenge lies in the fact that it will be difficult to unite the military components given that they were in war prior to the agreement.

Zed told Asharq Al-Awsat that the project requires some time to consider its chances of success and the agreement stipulated that transition from phase one to phase two should be done within a month.

The Syrian Coalition welcomed the deal, describing it as a "positive and important step towards building a new Syria."

In a statement, the coalition hoped all forces of the Syrian revolution and friends of Syrian people will support this agreement and help achieve all of its clauses in line with the agreed stages. 

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