Continued ground advances by the Syrian regime forces and its allies in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, northern Syria, despite all agreements, raise fears of a wider scale of massacres of civilians and displacement, as the regime continues its violent attacks in the region, ignoring the Astana agreements.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin expressed concern about the situation in Idlib during their meeting Tuesday in the Russian capital Moscow.
Erdogan stressed his rejection of the regime's killing of civilians in Idlib under the pretext of fighting terrorism, for his part, Putin confirmed his agreement with Erdogan to eliminate "terrorists" in Idlib, and to do what is necessary in this regard.
In this report ten questions explaining the situation in Idlib, and provides a summary of its importance to all parties, and we look forward to the state of the city in the coming days and months.
1. Where is it located?
Idlib is located in the north-west of Syria.It meets the Turkish province of Hatay.It shares a border of 130 km with the state.It is bordered to the east by Aleppo countryside, Afrin to the north (belonging to Aleppo), Hama governorate to the south, and Lattakia governorate to the west.
On May 4-5, 2017, the guarantors of the Astana Agreement (Turkey, Russia, and Iran) announced that they had reached an agreement to define the de-escalation zone, including Idlib Governorate, Western Aleppo Countryside, Northern Hama Countryside and Latakia Countryside.
2. How was the conflict affected?
Idlib, known as the opposition stronghold, has been subjected to heavy air and ground attacks, following Russia's involvement in the war with the Syrian regime since October 2015.
However, due to Idlib's proximity to the relatively safe Turkish border, the province became a refuge for nearly four million civilians during the war, due to regime attacks and the forced displacement of civilians from other provinces.
By ignoring the Astana agreement, many residential areas in the de-escalation zone were destroyed, as well as the bombing of dozens of hospitals and schools that were out of service.
3. What is the control situation in Idlib?
Control in Idlib is divided into areas controlled by the National Liberation Front (FNL), which was formed by 14 active opposition groups, and areas controlled by HTS, the anti-regime armed group.
Russia and the Syrian regime claim that terrorist groups control Idlib.
4. How are civilians?
As a result of the regime and its allies' violent and increasing attacks, many residents were forced to leave their homes, displaced in agricultural land, fields and under olive trees, because camps on the Syrian border were full.
Civilians are suffering from a lack of basic living needs, such as water, medical support, toilets and infrastructure, and high temperatures in summer and cold in winter, which leads to various diseases, and because of this increase the number of civilians heading to the Turkish border.
5. How was the population affected by the recent attacks?
Despite the agreement between Turkey and Russia (Sochi) on September 17, 2018, attacks on the area continued, until the regime took over areas in southern Idlib and northern Hama, which led to the displacement of about one million civilians north near the Turkish border, while another part went To the areas of the Euphrates Shield and the Olive Branch.
There is growing concern that if the regime moves toward the areas of Jericho, Saraqeb and Maaret al-Numan, the number of displaced people could rise to 1.5 million.
6. Why is Idlib important for Turkey?
Idlib shares a 130 km border with Turkey. If the regime advances deeper into the province, the prospect of a new wave of migration towards the Turkish province of Hatay is of concern to Ankara, a safe haven for civilians.
On the other hand, the presence of 12 Turkish checkpoints within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone makes Idlib more important.
At present, the depth of opposition-held areas and areas in Idlib allows the clashes to remain far from Turkey's borders.
7. What did Ankara and Moscow do for them?
As a result of an agreement reached in Astana, Turkey and Russia have set up control points and a demilitarized zone, with Turkey having 12, while Russia has 13.
In addition, the two countries reached an additional agreement on September 17, 2018, to prevent large-scale displacement and massacres of civilians as a result of the regime's ongoing attacks.
Turkish and Russian officials are continuing talks on a general ceasefire and ensuring regional peace.
What happened despite the agreements between Russia and Turkey?
Despite the Idlib agreement, the regime accelerated its attacks in the south and southeast of Idlib between February and April, and since the agreement more than 945,000 civilians have been displaced in the de-escalation zone.
During the same period, 1,282 civilians were killed in attacks by the regime and Russia, including 219 women and 341 children.
What is Moscow's position on the recent attacks?
Russia provided the Syrian regime with air and ground support during its alleged operations against "terrorists" and Putin said on August 19 that his country supports the Syrian army's efforts against terrorists.
Moscow directly supported the entry of President Bashar al-Assad's regime into many areas of Idlib and Hama countryside, targeting residential compounds from the air, killing hundreds of civilians and causing dozens of hospitals and schools.
10. What messages did the Presidents of Turkey and Russia give at the last meeting?
The Turkish president stressed that the regime's killing of civilians in Idlib, Syria, is unacceptable under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
Erdogan explained that his country could not fulfill its responsibilities under the Sochi agreement only after the Syrian regime attacks on Idlib.
For his part, Putin stressed that his country and Ankara continue to work fruitfully within the framework of the Astana process, which is the most effective process to resolve the Syrian crisis, expressing deep concern about the situation in Idlib.
Putin added that the framework of additional measures with Turkey to eliminate "terrorists" has been identified, referring to his agreement with Erdogan to eliminate them and do what is necessary in this regard.