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Ankara 'Tests' Moscow in Syria’s Idlib

Ankara 'Tests' Moscow in Syria’s Idlib

Tuesday, 20 August, 2019 - 06:15
Turkish soldiers stand on a watchtower at the Atmeh crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Days after Ankara and Washington reached military deals over a buffer zone east of the Euphrates River, Turkey sent on Monday military reinforcements to its posts in the Idlib countryside as a test of Moscow’s commitment to the “de-escalation agreement” in northwestern Syria.

Western diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that American and Turkish officials had agreed to establish military arrangements 70 to 80 kilometers long and 5 to 14 kilometers deep between the cities of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

The plan stipulates the establishment of a joint operations center in the area, which will be patrolled jointly by Turkish and US troops.

“The new arrangements do not include any item related to the self-administration and is also not related to the anti-ISIS Coalition,” the sources said.

They added that Ankara and Washington also agreed on the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the removal of their heavy arms 20 kilometers away from the border, where Turkish reconnaissance aircraft are allowed to monitor the area.

According to observers, Monday was a day for testing the new situation between Moscow and Ankara.

Turkey sent a military convoy of around 50 armored vehicles, including personnel carriers and at least five tanks, traveling southwards through the Idlib province.

However, the convoy was attacked by Syrian and Russian airstrikes in the town of Maaret al-Numan, which lies 15 kilometers north of Khan Sheikoun, in the countryside of southern Idlib.

A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region’s three million inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.

Meanwhile, in response to the calls by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to urgently put into force a ceasefire in Idlib, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We support the efforts of the Syrian army... to end these terrorist threats.”

Macron is hosting Putin just days before welcoming world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, for the August 24-26 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz on France's Atlantic Coast.

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