On Sept. 17, a deal was struck between Russian and Turkey to establish a demilitarized zone between the Syrian government and rebel forces and joint patrols to enforce the compromise.
The agreement, forged in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi between Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, allows Turkey to strengthen its 12 observation posts, establish a 15-20km-wide demilitarized zone along the Turkish-Syrian border and have all warring sides withdrawing from the area by October 10.
The National Front for Liberation, a Syrian rebel coalition identifying as part of the Free Syrian Army fighting in the Syrian Civil War, agreed to the agreement and announced that it began withdrawing its heavy weapons and artillery from the demilitarized zone.
On the other hand, Guardians of Religion Organization, an armed insurgent group affiliated with Al-Qaeda and fighting in the Syrian Civil War, has announced refusal to the agreement and called upon its supporters from outside Syria to join it.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has said that the Sochi deal negotiated between ally Russia and opposition-backer Turkey is a “temporary one”, and that the government’s objective to control all of Syria remains the same.
“The position of the Syrian state is clear. This province and other Syrian territories remaining under the control of terrorists will return to the Syrian state.”
For his part, Special Representative of the Russian President, Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov said that the agreement on Idlib is temporary because the goal is to liberate all Syrian territory from any presence of terrorists.
After signing the Sochi agreement, several disagreements appeared between Putin and Erdogan regarding the way Turkey and Russia observe the Syrian crisis.
The Sochi agreement intends to eliminate terrorists in mid-October, which contradicts with Ankara’s intention to transfer them to Kurdish regions. Moreover, unlike Turkey, Russia demands the extradition of foreign militias.
The two sides also disagree on the time period of the agreement, as Moscow and Damascus see it as a temporary solution, while Ankara see it as the ultimate solution for the Syrian crisis, and that it will allow the Turkish army to carry out its operations in northern Syria against the Kurds.
Another point is related to the Russian policy in the Middle East, as when Russia interfered to resolve the Syria crisis, upon Al-Assad request in 2015, it determined its goals as destroying and eliminating terrorism and its groups in Syria. It seeks to unite all of Syria because any part that would fall in the hands of terrorists would provide safe havens for terrorists once again.
Russia also seeks to affirm its geostrategic existence in the Middle East through cooperation with the Syria regime and the fight against terrorist organizations in the scene.
Observers suggest that the Sochi agreement will not last very long, despite all of the possible Russian military scenarios of intervention in Adlib in case the agreement’s time period is over without adhering to its terms.