Turkey ‘Saves Face’ as Joint Patrols with Russia of Syria’s Idlib Region begin Today

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ANKARA – The armed forces of Russia and Turkey will joint patrols today in the Syrian region of Idlib. This was announced on March 8th by the Minister of National Defense of Turkey Hulusi Akar.

“Patrolling in Idlib will begin today. Russia will implement it along the borders of Idlib, and the armed forces of Turkey – in the regions in which the terrorists have been disarmed”, according to a statement recorded by the Russian state-controlled news agency, TASS .

The head of the defense ministry called the cooperation between Moscow and Ankara in Idlib important “in terms of maintaining the cease-fire regime in north-west Syria.”

History

Since May 2017, a memorandum signed in Astana enshrines the cessation of hostilities in Syria. The document involves the creation of four security zones.

The first zone includes a part of Idlib province, the northeastern districts of Lattakia, the western districts of Aleppo and the northern districts of Hama. The second zone is in the north of the province of Homs; the third zone is deployed in Eastern Ghouta; the fourth zone in southern Syria includes areas bordering Jordan.

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In September 2018, the presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed an agreement on the creation of a demilitarized zone along the line of contact between Syrian troops and the armed opposition in Idlib.

In February of this year, at a meeting with Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, Erdogan suggested increasing the number of de-escalation zones in Syria in order to speed up the process of returning refugees to their homeland.

Russia and Turkey’s Rationale

On the balance, the present scenario in Syria is complex. A number of countries, such as Turkey, began their efforts in Syria in concert with the Arab League, Israel, and the United States. The overthrow and destruction of Ba’athist Syria appeared a certainty.

Thus, countries such as Turkey invested significant resources and political capital into this project.

After the invitation by Syria to Russia to formally intervene on behalf of Syria’s sovereignty, and to maintain the Ba’ath Party state, the situation changed rapidly. The U.S was ultimately shown to have little ability to confront the Axis of Resistance and Russia.

Negotiations on the Russian side with Turkey have had the aim of bringing Turkey into a more neutral position based on the path of least resistance. Rather than demanding a very difficult to achieve capitulation from Turkey, instead we have seen a gradual process of unwinding and deconfliction. Turkey’s needs are to cut its losses in the least costly way possible, and for the Erdogan led government to retain as much credibility during this phase as to make its position appear to both the public and international partners as based in strength and not weakness.

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