Syria accuses Turkey of not implementing Idlib deal

Omar Haj Kadour, Reuters | A damaged building in Binnish in Syria's rebel-held northern Idlib province on October 15, 2018.

The Syrian government accused Turkey of failing to meet obligations set out in an agreement with Russia to create a demilitarised zone free of jihadists in the northwest. Ankara has rejected the accusations.


The agreement forged in September between Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, staved off a major government offensive into the opposition-held Idlib region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Ankara was fulfilling its obligations in Idlib.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in comments reported late on Monday that Turkey appeared unwilling to implement the deal.

"The terrorists still exist with their heavy arms in this region and this is an indicator of Turkey's unwillingness to fulfill its obligations," Moualem said in Damascus, according to the official news agency SANA.

The Syrian government has vowed to recover "every inch" of Syria, including the Idlib region.

The Turkish-Russian agreement established a buffer zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that was to be free of heavy weapons and jihadists by mid-October.

Turkey rejects accusations

Ankara has however rejected the Syrian government’s accusations.

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed the allegations on Tuesday, saying the agreement was continuing as planned. "There are currently no issues in implementing the memorandum... Everything is going as planned," Cavusoglu told a news conference in Istanbul.

Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey would ensure a more active international role in Idlib.

Cavusoglu also warned that if terrorists or radical groups in Idlib displayed a "different approach" to that of the deal struck between Ankara and Moscow, Turkey would intervene.

UN warns of humanitarian catastrophe

The main jihadist group in the northwest, Tahrir al-Sham, gave a nod of approval to the Turkish agreement, but without explicitly saying it would abide by it.

Idlib and adjacent areas are the last stronghold of the anti-Assad insurgency.

Turkey has established 12 military positions in the northwest under a previous agreement with Russia and Iran, Assad's other main ally.

The United Nations warned that any major offensive into the Idlib region would cause a humanitarian catastrophe. The region is home to around 3 million people.


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