Published: Tue, September 18, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Turkeys Erdogan says meeting with Putin on Syria will bring new hope

Turkeys Erdogan says meeting with Putin on Syria will bring new hope

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there will be no new military operation on Idlib by Syrian government forces and their allies, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that a joint statement on Syria due to be made after his meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin would bring "new hope" to the region. About half the population of 3 million are already displaced from other areas, and worldwide observers have voiced concerns that a government offensive could lead to further displacement and a massive loss of civilian life.

Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime. The latter needs a foothold in Syria to ensure its place at the negotiating table, as the United Nations and Syria's allies decide the country's future.

Vladimir Putin has said the Syrian government will allow a demilitarised zone around Idlib.

For the past two years, Idlib became the shoe-box into which were pushed an estimated 20,000 opposition and rebel fighters from around the country, after their losses to regime troops and surrender deals negotiated with Russian Federation and Damascus following devastating sieges. "The agreement saved us all these things". "Turkey needs more time to do it".

Over the past couple of months, the Syrian government forces have urged the rebels in Idlib province to lay down their weapons and agree to a reconciliation deal with the government. "The zone will be 15-20km wide, with full withdrawal of hardline militants from there, including the Jabhat Al-Nusra".

Within four years, rebels and hardline militants had overrun swathes of territory, including Idlib province.

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Erdoğan said Syrian Kurdish fighters in the YPG east of the Euphrates river posed the biggest threat for Syria's future. "But we are still not satisfied", he said. Yet the reason Putin gave, that none of the radical groups like HTS was a participant in the negotiations and none of the three leaders could speak for them, was more forward looking than it sounded at the time.

He said the nature of the demilitarized zone and how it would be implemented are not yet clear.

"The opposition will continue to remain in the areas where they are present".

Al Mustafa, the National Front spokesman, said the opposition is prepared for a battle he called "existential".

This turned out to be a dilemma for Ankara, with Turkish president simultaneously anxious about Russian Federation and Syrian action weakening the rebel groups, but also having concerns over the spread of terrorists and the potential influx of new refugees into areas bordering Turkey. "Nothing is sure for now", he said. Second thing, (they said) if you want to protect (Idlib), then take those people you think are nice.

The arrangement however leaves the fate of the estimated 10,000 jihadist fighters in the region unanswered.

Putin added the sides agreed to "resume transit traffic along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama highways by the end of 2018, also at the initiative of the Turkish side".

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