Provocations won't be allowed to hurt Idlib deal

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 19.01.2019 00:00

To restore peace in Syria, Ankara asserted that provocative attempts to undermine the Idlib deal between Turkey and Russia wouldn't be allowed.

"Recently, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has been targeting the moderate opposition. We continue to take necessary measures against these provocations. We will not allow these provocations to undermine the Idlib deal," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Friday, stressing that Turkey expects cooperation from the international community for its efforts to maintain the deal.

Clashes between the HTS terrorist group and the moderate National Liberation Front (NLF), which is backed by the Turkish-assisted Free Syrian Army (FSA), in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib ended after the two groups agreed on a ceasefire on Jan. 10.

The clashes started in late December in Aleppo and intensified in the last two days, spreading to Idlib's north and southeast, including the western countryside of Aleppo province, the town of Atmeh, the tent area in Idlib and the northwestern Hama province.

As a result of the clashes, the NLF announced that it took control of the town of Salwa in the Idlib countryside, while the HTS announced that it took control of areas in Idlib's south, including al-Faqi, al-Fattirah, Sfouhan, Ourembe and Tarmalah.

Turkey designated the HTS as a terrorist group in August. The HTS is the most powerful terrorist alliance in Idlib, the last major opposition-controlled enclave outside of Bashar Assad's control. After the fall of Aleppo in November 2016, dozens of groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and the HTS, squeezed into Idlib.

"A great human tragedy was prevented by the Idlib, Syria deal. The deal won the appreciation of the international community," Aksoy stressed.

Idlib, located near the Turkish border, has been protected by a buffer zone implemented under a Turkish-Russian deal, known as the Sochi deal, reached in September.

Prior to this deal, the regime was preparing for a full-scale operation toward Idlib, which is home to over 3 million civilians.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib a remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct joint patrols in these area to prevent renewed fighting.

However, recently some incidents have been raising concerns about stability in the city.

Last week, regime forces and Iranian-backed forces fired artillery into villages inside the de-escalation zone, killing at least one civilian. Local sources say the regime targeted villages in the countryside of the Homs and Idlib governorates.

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