Turkey to create safe zone east of Euphrates river, Syria

26 September, 2018, 12:45 | Author: Carlos George
  • Huras al-Din armed group rejects demilitarisation deal for Syria's Idlib

Expanding Turkey's military campaign into the much larger Kurdish-held territory east of the Euphrates would risk confronting troops of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the United States, that are deployed alongside a YPG-dominated force there.

According to the deal, the two highways "M4" and "M5", passing through Idlib, will be reopened towards the end of 2018, as to energize the commercial wheel in the area; the roads are Damascus-Aleppo and the Lattakia-Aleppo. The ongoing seven-year conflict in Syria has fueled mass refugee migration to Turkey, which hosts over 3 million Syrians.

"We announce our full cooperation with our Turkish ally in their efforts..."

Syrian civilians have responded positively to the Russian Federation and Turkey deal on demilitarised zones in the besieged opposition and rebel-held enclave of Idlib.

While the Huras al-Din faction is not the main militant armed group in Idlib, its statement points to objections that may complicate the implementation of the agreement clinched last week by Russian Federation and Turkey.

Tahrir al-Sham is a coalition of Islamist groups dominated by the faction formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was an official wing of the al Qaeda network until 2016.

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The dominant force in the northwestern region bordering Turkey, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by jihadists of Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, had on Sunday however still not responded.

The group declared the agreement part of a plan "to eliminate the jihadist project" in the Levant.

Erdogan recently reached an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to pause a Syrian government offensive on the northern province of Idlib, the last major stronghold of the Syrian opposition. While there are opposition groups in the region, a substantial part of Idlib's population consist of displaced people who fled different parts of the country, stoking concerns that a full-scale operation in Idlib would result in a catastrophe.

The president said the zone, which will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces, will be 15 to 20km deep and run along the contact line between rebel and government fighters.

Nearly immediately, the United Nations issued a warning that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".

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