Russia and Turkey want to begin joint patrols along an important expressway in Syria’s last large rebel area around the city of Idlib. The two countries had agreed on this more than a week ago. The ceasefire agreed for the contested region has largely held since then. Russia supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, Turkey is at the side of the rebels, who are mainly composed of Islamist militias.
The outbreak of the Syrian civil war is now the ninth time. On March 15, 2011, people in the capital Damascus for the first time protested against Assad. The Syrian leadership then used violence against the demonstrators. A bloody conflict developed from this.
The region around Idlib in northwestern Syria is now the last large rebel area. It is dominated by the Al Qaeda-related militia Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). However, more moderate armed groups are also fighting there. Syrian government forces launched an offensive on Idlib last year with the support of the Russian Air Force and foreign militias loyal to Iran. In recent weeks, they have been able to conquer important areas.
“Security corridor” through a contested area
In addition to a ceasefire and joint patrols, the agreement between Russia and Turkey also provides for a “security corridor” along the M4 expressway that runs through the rebel area. The two powers also want to create a “joint coordination center” to monitor the ceasefire. Turkey has its own troops in the region.
With the agreement, Moscow and Ankara had reacted to the escalation in the region. Air strikes, fighting and advancing government forces have displaced nearly a million people, most of them women and children. Aid organizations report a humanitarian disaster. There is a lack of food, shelter, heating materials and health care.