October 16, 2018

Moscow, Ankara say Syria buffer going ahead despite missed deadline

Featuring Nicholas Heras

Source: AFP

Journalist Layal Abou Rahal

Russia and Turkey said Tuesday their deal to set up a buffer zone for the last major Syrian rebel bastion of Idlib was still on course, despite jihadists missing a deadline to withdraw.

The agreement, reached by key powerbrokers Moscow and Ankara last month, gave "radical fighters" until Monday to leave a horseshoe-shaped area around Idlib intended to separate government from opposition forces.

But jihadists have held their ground, with a monitoring group saying Tuesday there were still "no signs" of an evacuation.

Neither Turkey nor Russia seemed fazed by the apparent breach of the plan aimed at averting an assault by Moscow-backed Syrian regime troops.

"The memorandum is being implemented and the military are satisfied with the way the Turkish side is working in this regard," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

"Of course one cannot expect everything to go smoothly with absolutely no glitches, but the work is being carried out."

Soon after, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the process of implementation was "ongoing."

"There are no concerns about the withdrawal of heavy arms, and there don't seem to be concerns about certain radical groups withdrawing from this region," he said.

The deal provides for a 15-20 kilometre buffer zone semi-circling opposition-held areas in Idlib and the neighbouring provinces of Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo.

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  • Nicholas Heras

    Former Fellow, Middle East Security Program

    Nicholas A. Heras is a former Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Middle East Security Program. His work focused on the analysis of complex...