‘The Idlib ceasefire’ agreed by Russia and Turkey came into effect in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib on 5 March 2020. The agreement emerged after a continuation of talks that were held in Sochi in 2018. It was signed in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Hawar News provided an assessment of the agreement, one year after it was signed.
The ceasefire took place after weeks of intense fighting between Turkish-backed forces and Syrian forces supported by Russia. Approximately 60 Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed during a Syrian government offensive on Idlib on 27 February 2020.
The three point agreement included the following for the two sides:
– All military activities along the line of contact in the Idlib de-escalation zone will be stopped from 00:01 on 6 March 2020.
– A security corridor 6 km north and south side of Idlib’s M4 motorway, connecting the roads of the government held-cities of Aleppo and Latakia.
– Turkish-Russian joint patrols will be launched from 15 March 2020 along the M4 from Trumba (2 km west of Serakib) to Ain-Al-Havr.
‘The turning point was the downing of the Russian warplane’
Evaluating the nature of the ceasefire agreement, political analyst Hisên Umer said: “First of all, we need to look at the pre-agreement between Russia and Turkey within the context of diplomatic, military and economic relations, to see how it reached this level. There was conflict between the two countries until the ‘safe zone’ decision. The downing of the Russian warplane was the turning point. There was a crisis between the three powers in Syria, the Autonomous Administration of northeast Syria, the Turkish state and its gangs, and the Damascus government and Russia. However, later on, the Turkish state attacked the Autonomous Administration. When the Turkish state attacked the Kurds, it signed a security zone agreement with other forces”.
Umer added: “After the agreement, the Turkey-backed forces were settled in the occupied areas by the Turkish state. Gangs and their families in Damascus, Humus and Aleppo were settled in Afrin, Serekaniye and Girê Spî. Syria is an important place for Russia. The Turkish state also does not want the Kurds attaining their rights. The Turkish state allied with Russia and attacked the Autonomous Administration of northeast Syria”.
‘These agreements are made entirely for the interests of the Turkish state’
According to Umer: ”The Syrian people do not benefit from these agreements. These agreements are made entirely for the interests of the Turkish state. The Turkish state signs these agreements to be the strongest regional power. Russia fulfilled the demands of the Turkish state. However, the Turkish state did not fulfill Russia’s demands as in the example of the M4 highway”.
Umer stated that the deal affects the interests of both sides: “Russia recaptured most of the rebel-held areas. Russia has an agreement with the Turkish state that is also in line with the interests in the region of the Damascus government. The Turkish state also occupied regions such as Ezaz, Carablus, Idlib, Afrin, Girê Spî and Serêkaniyê. Russia approved these invasions”.
Umer: The Turkish state wishes to maintain its presence in Afrin
Umer also made the following assessment: “The US can support the Turkish state against Russia in Idlib, Carablus and Azaz regions. The Turkish state also needs the US. Russia prefers the path of dialogue rather than a military operation. But I expect it will change after the elections will be held in Syria”.
Noting that the Turkish state wishes to maintain its presence in areas such as Afrin through such agreements, Umer said: “The Turkish state is changing the demographic structure now. The Kurds want to break it up. In the future, this situation will also harm the Russian and Damascus government. The problems will deepen even more”.
Malik: Russia and Turkey have expanded influence in the control areas
Journalist Hafiz Malik concluded that: “The agreement was to avoid a major escalation spreading to North West Syria. If they had not agreed on the ceasefire, the US would have been able to intervene. There is no solid relationship between Russia and Syria. Both sides agreed on common interests in Syria. Russia and Turkey have expanded influence in the control areas. Russia has established strategic points. New developments may occur on the Libya, Azerbaijan and Armenia fronts. Erdoğan and Putin made a phone call regarding Astana. Both sides agreed on terror. We can say that this situation that allows these developments in the northwest of Syria have benefited Russia”.
Landslide: This deal was tactical
International researcher Dr. Ebor Landslide expressed the view that the agreement is just a temporary expedient to reduce current tensions. “Russia and Turkey signed an agreement to stop the conflict. This agreement halted the operations of the Damascus government. The gangs supported by the Turkish state have lost strategic influence in Seraqib region. This deal was tactical. There are interests on both sides. This agreement is temporary. It cannot solve the Syrian crisis. The US and the EU do not approve of the agreement between the two sides. The US and NATO can take a position. With the possible pressure of the US, Turkey can withdraw its support for Russia. Of course, this also affects the developments in Libya and other regions”, he concluded.