The Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation on Thursday expressed hope that the Turkish military would activate checkpoints located in the de-escalation zone in the northwestern province of Idlib for the return of refugees to their homes.
The announcement is the first sign that Moscow wishes to enhance Ankara’s observation posts in the zone.
“It is well-known that militants in the Idlib de-escalation zone hamper the passage of refugees. We are asking the Turkish side to support us because they have monitoring points in this area. We hope that by joint efforts we will make the work of checkpoints more productive,” head of the Russian Center Ravil Muginov told reporters.
Muginov said that after the liberation of Khan Sheikhoun, located in the south of Idlib province, the Suran checkpoint, located in neighboring Hama province, began functioning both in the northern and the southern directions.
He said that over the past month, around 10,000 people had returned to the liberated territories.
On September 13, Moscow and Damascus announced the opening of the Abu Adh Dhuhur checkpoint in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Last month, the two sides also opened a humanitarian corridor in the village of Suran.
However, it is the first time Russia refers to a possible role of Turkish checkpoints in the area, particularly that Muginov’s calls reflect his country’s assertion that Turkish points would remain in Idlib.
Russian sources did not clarify what Damascus had to say about the Russian invitation, although Syrian authorities had called on Turkey to withdraw its units from the area, describing the Turkish presence in Idlib as an “invasion.”
A Russian source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that Moscow seeks to expand the specter of understandings with Turkey.
Meanwhile, Russian military sources revealed that Moscow is expanding its Hmeimim air base in Syria and rebuilding a second landing strip to serve more aircraft.
Russian news agencies cited an unnamed Defense Ministry official as saying that Russia has also set up new buildings to house aircraft that will defend against drone attacks.
Thirty fighter jets and helicopters are currently deployed at the base, he added.