01/14/2020, 12.22
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Idlib truce and Moscow's pressure in Syria

by Pierre Balanian

Two days after Vladimir Putin visited the war-torn country, Russia and Turkey reach a truce in Idlib, but one full of contradictions according to various observers. Jihadi mercenaries leaving Idlib and east of the Euphrates continue to move to Libya via Turkey.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The recent visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to two Christian holy places in Syria is highly significant, both for the role and future of the religion in the Middle Eastern country, a view widely held by many Christians in Damascus.

On 7 January, Orthodox Christmas, Putin arrived in the Syrian capital for the first official visit by a Russian head of state to the city. The president first went to the tomb of St John the Baptist, the only shrine inside a mosque, followed by a visit to the Church of the Virgin Mary, the first Marian shrine in Christianity.

Putin spent a lot of time with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, that day. A few hours later, around midnight, Iran began its missile attack against the Ain Assad US base in Iraq.

A source told AsiaNews that Putin and Assad have agreed on opening a Russian university in Damascus, to boost cultural and scientific ties between the two countries. Other reports suggest the two leaders have also agreed to move al-Nusra jihadists from Syria to Libya.

Two days after Putin's visit to Damascus, a ceasefire agreement was announced in Idlib, whose terms are still unclear highlighting differences between Moscow and Ankara, including its start – 9 am on 11 January for Russia, midnight the following day for Turkey. Both sides are also not on the same wave length with respect to the goals of the ceasefire.

The Russian Reconciliation Centre has called on armed factions to stay away from provocations and participate in the peace process in areas under its control. Conversely, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu took part in the ‘We stand with Idlib’ campaign to bring aid to the city.

Some reports about the Idlib truce leaked to the Syrian press suggest that the al-Nusra Front would be dissolved and the Damascus-Aleppo and Aleppo-Latakia highways would come under Syrian army control, the latter by force if necessary.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) is sceptical about the truce, noting that the positions of armed fighters in Idlib have been regularly attacked in the past few days.

On Sunday, Syrian planned dropped leaflets on the area. AsiaNews obtained a copy. the flyers call on civilians in Idlib province and western Aleppo to leave combat zones and seek refuge in government-held areas, indicating three humanitarian corridors: Al Habit, Abu Dhur, and Al Hader3.

The leaflet says; “Terrorist organisations want you as human shields and this prevents Army units from rescuing you and retaking your territory from criminal terrorists.”.

A few hours later, al-Nusra fired rockets into neighbourhoods in western Aleppo, killing three and wounding several people, including children, some seriously.

In the meantime, Jihadi mercenaries are moving out of Idlib and east of the Euphrates to Libya, via Turkey.

Coincidentally, the bodies of nine Syrian mercenaries who died in North Africa arrived from Libya three days ago, this according to Ferho, a Kurdish source in Turkish-occupied Azaz (Syria) that spoke to AsiaNews. Six of the dead belonged to the Sultan Murad Brigade and were buried under a false pretence.

According to their fake papers, the fighters were killed by Kurds in a Syrian location called Nabea Al Slam. According to the source, relatives of the dead received US$ 30,000 in compensation, as well as Turkish citizenship.

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