Turkish and Russian forces carried out a joint military drill in northwestern Syria's Idlib on Monday. The exercise was reportedly aimed at increasing the efficiency of coordination in emergencies, Turkish sources said.
On March 5, Ankara and Moscow agreed on a ceasefire deal in the Idlib region and decided to establish a secure corridor near the key M4 highway and hold joint patrols along the road starting March 15.
According to the sources, soldiers were also trained to communicate using specific signals in case of “emergencies, such as launching armed attacks on the patrols.”
They were also trained to evacuate the wounded and damaged military vehicles during drills.
Last week, Russian forces refused to hold a joint patrol with their Turkish counterparts due to several attacks launched by factions that reject the Russian presence and the Turkish agreements with Moscow.
Russia has recently stepped up its attacks on southern, northern, and western Idlib, targeting the headquarters of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militant groups.
Ankara, however, remained silent.
Observers have attributed this to Turkey’s failure so far to implement its obligations under the Astana agreements and bilateral understandings with Russia in Idlib to separate the militant groups and the moderate Syrian opposition factions.
According to sources who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Turkish slow response to the Russian and Syrian regime escalation, which affected some of its military observation posts in Idlib, is attributed to the failure of these attacks to affect the situation in Idlib or its areas of influence.
They pointed out that Ankara is keen to maintain the current situation, and this is why it refused to reduce the number of observation posts in the de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria and the regime’s areas of influence. It also refused to withdraw its heavy weapons as the Russian side had suggested during meetings in Ankara.
Sources also affirmed that Ankara and Moscow maintain a continuous military consultation mechanism on Idlib. They said differences between both sides will not develop to a clash in the region.
Remarkably, the Turkish army has sent more reinforcements to its observation posts in Idlib during the past few days.