Middle East

Ceasefire unlikely in Idlib under current circumstances: Syria envoy to UN

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari says it is currently impossible to implement a ceasefire in the de-escalation zone of the country’s embattled northwestern province of Idlib, which militant groups have been using as a launch pad for attacks against Syrian forces and civilians.

Speaking at a UN Security Council’s session on the situation in Syria on Wednesday, Ja’afari said, “Western countries and the US seek to engage Turkey in Syria” due to their political disputes with Russia.

“Political rivalries have turned into military tensions and there is no possibility of a ceasefire in Idlib at the present time,” said Ja’afari.

His remarks came as tensions escalate between Russia and Turkey over the protracted conflict in the Arab country.

The Syrian envoy said Western countries do not welcome the terms of Astana and Sochi agreements regarding the de-escalation zone in Idlib, adding that Washington wants to hamper this process by influencing the course of developments in Idlib.

The area was proclaimed a demilitarized zone under the Moscow-Ankara agreements. Back in mid-January, Russian and Turkish forces tried to impose a “regime of silence” there, however, the attacks only increased.

Under a deal reached with Russia and brokered by Iran in 2018 known as the Sochi agreement, a small number of Turkish forces were allowed to man observation posts on Syrian territory to monitor the enforcement of certain de-escalation zones.

However, Syrian forces have been advancing to re-establish control over sovereign territory in Idlib because militants have been launching attacks on army and civilian targets from there.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been sending reinforcements into northwest Syria and pressing for a Turkish-controlled zone there, a provocative move that defies the Syrian government.

Under the bilateral agreements between Moscow and Ankara, the latter was tasked to separate the so-called “moderate opposition” militants from the internationally recognized terrorists.

Turkey’s failure to do so is believed to be one of the main reasons behind the ongoing escalation in Idlib.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey’s military would strike Syrian army forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt as Syrian government troops continue to make significant gains in battles against foreign-backed terrorists in Idlib.

Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey is determined to push Syrian government forces beyond Turkish observation posts in Idlib by the end this month, and he urged allied militant not to give government forces an excuse to attack.

Meanwhile, Russia has accused Turkey of failing to neutralize terrorists in Idlib.

Over the past four years, the Turkish military has staged at least two unauthorized invasions into northern Syria to push back against Kurdish militants, which Ankara accuses of harboring subversive intentions against the Turkish administration.

Syria has denounced the offensives, saying it would respond in kind if the need arose.

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