IDLIB WEEKLY SITUATION REPORT

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Today the Turks have managed to convince a part of the militants in Idlib to follow the terms of agreement. Pro-Turkish groups have been withdrawing heavy equipment for two days deeper in Idlib to the desired 10-11 kilometers from the current positions. In addition to the withdrawal of equipment the agreement requires the withdrawal of personnel from the areas where the joint patrolling of the Russian and Turkish military should begin.

Nevertheless, amid partial withdrawal of troops clashes continue on the front lines where there are militants of Al Nusra who either refuse to leave or bargain with the Turks. The clashes are mostly ongoing in North-Eastern Latakia and Northern Hama. During the week in these battles about 10 Syrian soldiers and a number of militants were killed. Such clashes also contradict the Sochi agreement and Erdogan is forced to do something to these groups to make them left the front lines.

Assad reiterated that Damascus supports Russian efforts for a peaceful solution of Idlib task. Syria is ready to wait if the problem is really solved by peaceful, not military measures. The experience of elimination of enclaves by negotiations gives Damascus reason to believe that it will be possible to deal with Idlib without bloodletting. However, Assad said that the issue of returning Idlib under the full control of Damascus is not a subject for discussion and it’s only about the method of return.

Amid the argues on following the Sochi agreement or not there increased internal tensions in the militants’ ranks. There appeared lots of militants who are ready to reconcile with Damascus. So the amount of arrests and murders increased severalfold. Moreover the ambushes against militants by ISIS is a one more pain in the neck of rebels’ leadership.

The Russians confirmed that all the issues on the border of the demilitarized zone have already been agreed and approved. Now there is a process of practical implementation which takes place in close contact between the Russian and Turkish military who not only meet regularly but also have already established mechanisms of communication. Russia has fulfilled its obligations under the Sochi deal and now expects the same from Turkey. If Erdogan at least partially fulfills his part of the agreement by October 15 he will get another month before November 15 to make the process of demilitarization and de-escalation systemic and to present real mechanisms for solving the problem of Al-Nusra in the Central regions of Idlib.

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