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News Analysis: Russia's balancing power warrants Syrian-Turkish equation in Idlib
Last Updated: 2020-02-08 22:37 | Xinhua
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The recent rare direct confrontation between the Syrian army and Turkish forces in the northwestern province of Idlib is not expected to escalate, according to analysts.

The confrontation, which led to the killing of eight Turkish soldiers and around 13 Syrian soldiers, is the result of the volatile situation in Idlib.

The equation is simple: the Syrian army wants to capture Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country, after Turkey failed to live up to its promises in a 2018 agreement with Russia to disarm the ultra-radical rebels in the province.

For Russia and the Syrian army, the ultra-radical rebel groups in Idlib are an obstacle that needs to be dealt with.

For Turkey, a wide-scale offensive in Idlib, which is home to as many as 3 million people, will create a massive wave of displacement, mainly toward the Turkish border.

Observers believe that the Syrian army's main goal behind the two-month-long offensive in Idlib is to capture the stretch of a highway linking Damascus in the south and Aleppo in the north through Idlib.

"Of course, the Syrian government wants to recapture all of Idlib, but in any war there are priorities, and I think the priority of the Syrian army at this time is to secure the Damascus-Aleppo highway," Maher Ihsan, a political expert, told Xinhua.

Ihsan, meanwhile, shunned the possibility of an escalated confrontation between the Syrian army and the Turkish forces, citing Russia as the balacing power.

"Russia is brokering agreements between Turkey and Syria as the relations between the two neighbors have hit the bottom during the Syrian war," he said.

Ahmad al-Ashqar, a journalist and political expert, agreed that Russia will not allow further escalation between Turkey and Syria.

"In any agreement, we can see some setbacks and some negative signals, but it is normal ... and will not collapse," he told Xinhua.

In September 2018, Russia and Turkey signed an agreement under which Turkey assumed responsibility for disarming the ultra-radical rebel groups, mainly those linked with the al-Qaida.

However, Turkey has failed to do so as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front seemed out of control, which was the main reason why Russia and the Syrian army decided to launch the current operation in Idlib.

It is worth noting that most of an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 rebel fighters concentrated in Idlib belong to radical groups which also have foreign fighters, mainly from the Caucasus.

These rebel fighters have no other place to go to as Idlib and nearby rural Aleppo are the last rebel-held areas in Syria.

The new deployment of Turkish forces in Idlib aims to "prevent the progress of the Syrian army," Haitham Hassoun, a retired brigadier, told Xinhua.

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News Analysis: Russia's balancing power warrants Syrian-Turkish equation in Idlib
Source:Xinhua | 2020-02-08 22:37
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