Since Russia and Turkey have moved a deadlline of the full implementation of the Idlib demilitarized zone from October 15 to some point in the future, the situation in the northwestern Syrian region has not improved.
- The National Front for Liberation (NFL) and other miltiant groups directly controlled by Turkey have withdrawn a part of their heavy weapons and military equipment from the deimilitarized zone. However, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Jaish al-Izza, Wa Harid al-Muminin (a coalition of al-Qaeda affilated groups) and other radicals have kept their heavy weapons and equipment in the area. Furthermore, they constantly violate the agreement striking positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies in northern Hama, northern Lattakia, and southern Aleppo.
- The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the NFL have contributed no efforts to eliminate units of militant groups violating the ceasefire gime or to prevent these violations. This situation forced the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to respond to miltiant shelling and carry out limited ground attacks countering militants’ efforts. Mainstream media, including Turkish media outlets, and militant-affilated media organizations describe the SAA actions as violations of the demilitarized agreements.
- In the current situation it’s hard to expect that the demilitarized zone agreement can be fully implemented anytime soon. Even if Ankara and Moscow decide to declare that it’s “implemented”, in fact Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radicals will remain in this zone.
- In October and early November, Russian top officials, including President Vladimir Putin, warned that further provocations and violations of the agreement could force the SAA and Russia to emloy own efforts to eliminate the terrorist threats. First of all, Russian remarks were related to UAV attacks on Khmeimim Air Base, which are being carried from southern Idlib and northern Aleppo. However, if the situation in the demilitarized zone deteriorates, the Russian stance can become less soft towards the so-called “opposition”.
- The Astana talks format, which had allowed to de-escalate the sitaution in Idlib partly, is not leadng to any kind of solution of the current problem because a significant part of the Turkish-backed opposition in-fact supports actions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radicals.
- If in the near future, Turkey is not able to put an end to violations of the ceasefire regime and promote a peaceful process in this part of Syria, there are significant chances that a new round of escalation will start in a few months. It should be noted that there are doubts that Ankara is really capable of restoring the peace and order in Idlib without a large-scale military invasion. The sitaution in the region of Afrin where YPG cells continue to carry out attacks on Turkey-led forces is an example of limitations faced by Ankara.