In mid-September, Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan agreed on establishing a 15 – 20 km-wide demilitarized zone in Idlib province along the Turkish border.
Russian and Turkish forces will control the zone, an offensive to liberate Idlib put on hold at least until later this year, maybe not until 2019.
Full withdrawal of US-supported terrorists was to be completed by October 15, the deadline missed because al-Nusra and allied jihadists refuse to disarm and leave – likely at the behest of Washington, their paymaster.
According to AMN News, Syria’s military “demand(s) answers regarding the(ir) failed…withdrawal from the designated buffer zone,” adding:
“(T)he Syrian Arab Army’s High Command is in talks with the Russian military about the next steps to take in the Idlib, Aleppo, Latakia, and Hama provinces” in response to noncompliance with the buffer zone agreement – by US-supported terrorists.
A Syrian military source said jihadists in Idlib continue attacking government forces and civilians, explaining:
They’re “strengthening their positions, digging new trenches and expanding their network of underground tunnels,” digging in for continued battle.
Al-Nusra, its affiliate Guardians of Religion Organization, and the Turkistan Islamic Party of Syria intend remaining in their positions, including strategic high ground and nearby areas held, using them as platforms for continued shelling.
Idlib is the last major stronghold of US-supported terrorists in Syria, controlled by tens of thousands of jihadists.
On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Idlib’s demilitarized zone agreement is untenable if al-Nusra and other jihadists fail to comply, saying:
“We cannot keep quiet about the continuation of the current situation in Idlib if the Nusra Front refuses to comply with this agreement,” adding:
“After liberating territory east of the Euphrates River, freeing Idlib from terrorists’ control is the next objective, stressing the province will be returned to Syrian sovereignty.
If the Russian/Turkish demilitarized zone isn’t implemented, Damascus will take other options to eliminate al-Nusra and other terrorists in Idlib, he said.
“Because (millions of) Syrian citizens in Idlib, and it is not their fault, we said that the liberation of Idlib with reconciliation is much better than the bloodshed. Syria’s support for the (Moscow/Ankara) Sochi agreement came from its desire not to shed blood,” al-Moallem explained.
Commenting on US occupied territory in the country, he stressed the importance of liberating it from their presence, returning the entire nation to Syrian control.
“(W)e still consider Turkey a state that is occupying our territories. Therefore, our armed forces cannot participate with their forces in any operation east of the Euphrates,” he stressed.
Head of Russia’s reconciliation center in Syria Vladimir Savchenko blamed the Trump regime for the failure of al-Nusra and other jihadists to withdraw from Idlib’s demilitarized zone, saying:
Because of US “inaction,” they “establish(ed) control over a 20-kilometer strip on the Euphrates’ east bank between the settlements of Hajin and al-Susa,” adding:
US forces continue “simulat(ing)” fighting against ISIS terrorists they support. Days earlier, their fighters abducted 700 civilians during an attack on a refugee camp near al-Bahrah, holding them hostage as human shields.
On Tuesday, Iraqi General Dia al-Wakil blasted Washington, saying its so-called coalition supports the scourge of ISIS it pretends to oppose.
“I do not believe that the (US-led) international coalition wants to bring an end to terrorism in the region,” he said, adding:
“Under the cover of the ‘fight against terrorism,’ US forces can remain and strengthen here. Behind this are economic goals. Americans need oil and arms sales contracts.”
ISIS and other terrorists are deployed where the US wants them used. Their fighters are “simply transferred to a given point” from another, including from one country to another.
“We have already seen how terrorists moved throughout the region before the international coalition’s very eyes,” transported by Pentagon helicopters. It happens repeatedly.
ISIS “has not been destroyed, but will still be used in political struggles, especially amid instability in the Middle East.” The same goes for al-Qaeda, its al-Nusra offshoot, and other terrorist groups.
Separately, Iranian Foreign Ministry official Jaberi Ansari said a massacre in Idlib by al-Nusra and/or other terrorists is Tehran’s red line.
It would have “grave humanitarian and moral, as well as political costs, which is unacceptable,” he said – no further elaboration added on how Iran might respond.