Syrian Media: Damascus to enter Idlib in third phase of Sochi agreement

FNA – The Syrian army will deploy in Idlib by the end of this year after implementation of the three stages of the Sochi agreement, media sources reported on Tuesday.

The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted Russian diplomatic sources as saying that the Russian-Turkish agreement on Idlib will be implemented in three stages, adding that the first stage will go into effect by mid October to create a 15 sq/km weapons-free zone near Idlib city.

Also, in the second stage monitored by Moscow and Ankara, the heavy weapons will be collected from the region until November 10 and the terrorists will leave the civilian areas, they said, adding that in the third stage which lasts to the end of this year, state bodies will resume operation in Idlib.

The sources said that if the terrorist groups do not accept this agreement, they will be considered as enemy of the Turkish army and will be fought.

Meantime, the Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper underlined that the Russian-Turkish agreement will create new challenges on Idlib, and said such an agreement is not possible practically because Turkey is now faced with a too difficult mission in which it has earlier failed.

The paper added that convincing the terrorist groups, including Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front), Turkistani, Horas al-Din and Ansar al-Islam, which have set up their important bases in the afore-mentioned 15-km zone to disarm and leave will not be easy.

Leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed to establish a de-militarized zone in Syria’s Idlib province, in a move that ostensibly puts on hold a threatened all-out military operations by government forces on Syria’s last terrorist bastion.

The announcement was made on Monday during a press conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Putin said the 15-20km-wide zone would be established by October 15.

This would entail a “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the al-Nusra Front, Putin said, referring to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Putin added that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from all opposition forces by October 10 – an approach supported by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.