Recently, claims by high-ranking diplomats from countries Turkey is allied with have tried to distort the perception of what is happening in Idlib along with allegations that Turkey has been unsuccessful in eliminating terrorist elements. Baseless news items have also been circulating in international media stating "Turkey will not only be subject to a refugee influx but also to religious fundamentalist terrorists if the crisis in Idlib is not solved." However, Turkey's stance and policy on this matter is quite clear. It is obvious that such allegations directed at Turkey are unfounded as the country is on the brink of establishing a "peace corridor" for a safe zone that will ensure the safe return of Syrians by clearing northeastern Syria of the PKK terrorist organization and its affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG).
In the face of such allegations, it is of importance to recall what Turkey will do vis-a-vis a new refugee wave from Idlib as well as look at the main points of the Sochi agreement signed in September of last year. Interior Ministry spokesperson İsmail Çataklı, who made an announcement on Idlib the previous day in a press conference, said, "We will meet a new refugee wave outside our borders; the relevant units are preparing for this."
Regarding the articles of the Idlib agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran: Turkey has fulfilled its responsibilities of protecting the de-escalation zone and strengthening established observation points. Meanwhile, Russia was to take the necessary precaution to avoid military operations and attacks in Idlib and to protect the current status quo. In this sense, a demilitarization zone of 15-20 kilometers wide was to be created, the borders of the region and work on the field was to be determined. While terrorist groups were sought to be driven out of the demilitarization zone and heavy arms including tanks, rocket launchers, artillery and mortars were to be withdrawn from the region. The inspections in the demilitarized zones were to be conducted by Turkish and Russian soldiers, the M4-M5 highway was to be opened for traffic, provided that its security was ensured. In order to establish a sustainable cease-fire in Idlib, effective measures were to be taken and Iran, Turkey and Russia were to develop a joint coordination center.
Turkey is struggling with this responsibility in Idlib in trying to maintain the de-escalation atmosphere as agreed upon in Sochi in September of last year as part of the Astana agreement of 2016. In this regard, 12 observation points were formed to prevent possible harassment and to provide peace. On the other side, despite the agreement and Turkey's presence in the region, Russia and the Bashar Assad regime have preferred to adapt an ever-increasing policy of attacks since April under the pretext of fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists and linked groups.
Clearing the de-escalation zone from radical terrorist elements is not only an issue for Turkey, but also for Russia, Iran and the U.S., which states that it is present because of the fight against terrorism in the region, as well as for all member countries of the Global Coalition against Daesh, including the U.K. In other respects, U.S. airstrikes on a group claimed to be linked to al-Qaida in Idlib over the weekend upon intelligence message received has drawn harsh reactions from Moscow. This pushes aside Turkey's efforts and will for a political solution in Syria since Astana and its struggle to sustain de-escalation in Idlib.
Yet, without being party to an agreement of de-escalation in Idlib, the U.S. carries out operations despite Moscow and Ankara's agreements. At this point, the U.K.'s policy and stance is an object of curiosity. The U.K. prefers not to be in the field actively in its position in Syria and follows the policy of standing by its allies within the international coalition. According to information we have received at this point, while British decision-makers support the agreement with the U.S on the establishment of a safe zone east of the Euphrates, they comment that they would not react against a possible unilateral Turkish intervention, however, the results would be unfavorable and the "fight against Daesh would be interrupted."
As stated by British diplomats, the Assad regime and Moscow are not working toward sustainable peace and political stability in Syria under any condition. In this case, a somber picture arises. However, in this equation, it has also been noted that Russia pays attention to what Turkey says. Furthermore, the U.K. is on the same page with the U.S. regarding the YPG and its current affiliate, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Contrasting with their close ally, Turkey, they still insist on this argument "The SDF are an effective ally of the international coalition in the fight against Daesh." On one hand, the U.K. maintains its argument "We know that the SDF is dominated by the YPG. We understand the concerns and sensitivity of our strong ally Turkey," while on the other hand it states "Our cooperation with the SDF for the fight against Daesh has to be evaluated separately."
Considering the positions of all parties, blaming Turkey on the one hand and then those complaining, making up de facto excuses, not recognizing agreements due to contradictions with their own interests, blaming others and allied countries - are all the real reasons why no solution in Syria, and particularly in Idlib and Syria in general, has been found so far.
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