The war in Syria enters within 10 years of its inception. As a result, more than a million people have been displaced and are now about to decide whether to believe in a fragile truce concluded to avoid escalation. The ceasefire, concluded last Thursday after several hours of talks between Putin and Erdogan, brought a halt to combat operations across the line of contact, a security corridor 6 km to either side of the M4 Idlib‘s highway. Its strategic importance lies in the fact that it connects the government-controlled cities of Alleppo and Latakia.
The decision was also preceded by an agreement of September 2018 between Putin and Erdogan, according to which the province of Idlib was to be transformed into a so-called de-escalation zone. This area was supposed to act as a buffer zone between the two sides, but the fighting was still ongoing. The cease-fire was most helped by the recent critical development in Idlib, where the struggle for the control of the country’s last opposition bastion took place. After the attack on a two-storey building in the village of Balioun 33 Turkish soldiers were killed. The fighting in the area also caused another wave of refugees. A ceasefire can be considered a partial success, at least because it has helped prevent further escalation.
It is not clear how long the fragile ceasefire will be maintained. The question of the possible withdrawal of Syrian and Turkish military units, as well as the fate of a large number of refugees, is unclear. Placing the safety region along the M4 motorway may only be regarded as a symbolic step.
It is not possible at this point to assess whether this is a long-term and significant political shift, or the purpose of the agreement was merely to ease the high tensions. The aim could be to avoid a direct war confrontation between Russia and Turkey. Only three days after the ceasefire came into force, Turkey asked NATO for additional assistance to protect its borders with Syria, as well as to address the migration crisis. It is impossible to predict what the next steps of President Erdogan will be. Although Putin and Erdogan have shown their willingness and ability to discuss these matters at one table, stabilizing the situation regarding Idlib can indeed have only a temporary effect. The conflict in Syria is a key aspect for Russia to strengthen its influence in the Middle East.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: František Tóth
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