Turkey’s actions in the Idlib de-escalation zone in recent years are clearly contrary to statements by Turkish leaders that there are no expansion plans for Syrian territory.
During Operation Dawn Idlib, during which the Syrian Arab Republic government forces liberated the southern part of the province from terrorists, only the direct intervention of Ankara saved Jabhat Al-Nusra and other militants from final defeat.
During the negotiations initiated by Turkey with Russia, Erdogan guaranteed the safety of civilians in the territory not controlled by Damascus, as well as the disarmament of illegal armed groups and the restoration of economic ties with the rest of Syria.
The main artery for the implementation of the latter requirement is the M4 highway, along which the Turks promised to ensure unhindered movement of civilian vehicles.
To control the safety of the route, it was decided to organize joint Russian-Turkish military patrols.
However, Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations.
Having overtaken more than five thousand of its troops and a certain amount of armaments and military equipment, including EW and air defense systems, into the de-escalation zone, the Turks did nothing to disarm terrorist groups, the main of which remains “Jabhat An-Nusra” – “Hayat” Tahrir Al-Sham”.
Moreover, the Turkish side explicitly declared to Russia that it could not ensure the security of our troops during joint patrols, as a result of which it has been suspended for now.
Only militants ride along the M4 highway through Idlib, and there is no question of any restoration of peaceful auto traffic in the interests of the regional economy.
It seems that, after a break caused by the defeat of the IAF during the counter-offensive of the SAR Supreme Army last winter, Turkey continued to implement the plan to turn Idlib into its colony.
During the ceasefire, the Turkish-controlled coalition formation Jebhat Wataniya Lee Tahrir (National Liberation Front) joined the so-called Syrian National Army, which is subordinate to the Provisional Syrian Government established in Turkey.
Together with the terrorist group “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”, under the leadership of Turkish military advisers, they created a joint operational headquarters with the big name “Clear Victory” (Al-Fath Al-Mubin).
The militants regrouped, strengthened their defensive positions and strongholds.
And in this Turkey, almost without hiding, contributed to them – by supplying construction materials, weapons, equipment and ammunition.
Currently, the Turkish military and special services are helping the “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” eliminate competitors from the radical group Khurras Ad-Din, which has tried to lure the Idlib jihadists under
the roof of its operational headquarters “Fa Musabbatu” (“And be persistent”).
The conflict between the terrorist factions escalated a week ago and at first it seemed that the Alkaid people from the Khurras Ad-Din were gaining the upper hand.
But then the foreign mercenaries and field commanders of the “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”, who initially maintained neutrality, received an unambiguous signal from Ankara and sharply intensified.
By June 29, supporters of Khurras Ad-Din were blocked in a number of settlements that remained under their control, while groups such as Tansikiyat Al-Jihad, Liva Al-Mujaheddin Val-Ansar, Jabhat Ansar Ad-Din and “Jamaat Ansar al-Islam” moved from “And be persistent” to “Clear victory”.
Having entered into an alliance with the terrorists from Jebhat Al-Nusra, who abandoned Idlib’s civilian administration, the Turks and the Syrian Provisional Government controlled by them took a course towards the Ottomanization of the region, similar to how they operate in the northern regions of the province captured by Turkish troops and pro-Turkish forces Aleppo (Aazaz, Jarablus, Maarea, El-Bab, Afrin).
This spring, the Turkish lira was introduced in Idlib instead of the Syrian pound, street names were changed to the Turkish style, Syrian banks and post offices were closed, and Turkish ones were opened instead.
Even fines for traffic violations are now collected in Turkish liras.
The local economy is directly subordinated to Turkish firms, turning the occupied territories into a raw materials appendage of Turkey itself.
The ban on the departure of graduates of Idlib schools to pass state exams in Syrian territory, initiated by Ankara’s filing, was especially indicative.
As an alternative, they were offered to study at Turkish educational institutions.
In these conditions, when Ankara essentially breaks down the agreements concluded earlier with it, the question arises – is it worth Russia to execute them unilaterally, at the same time risking its military personnel?
After all, Turkey, hiding behind the agreements with Moscow, actually disrupts the process of political settlement of the Syrian conflict.
The legalization of “Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham” in Idlib means the refusal of both Damascus and a significant part of the Syrian opposition to recognize local representatives as participants in the constitutional process.
Thus, the foundation is laid for the rejection of a large piece of Syrian territory.
Moreover, it is highly likely that stronger militants will once again attempt to seize territories under the control of the Syrian government.
In addition, this already poses a direct threat to the civilian population, which has just begun to return to areas liberated from militants and restore peaceful life there.
Neither the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, nor the Russian Federation, as the guarantor of peace in a country bleached by war, can allow this to happen.