Putin, Erdogan Agree On New Cease Fire In Idlib

by Willy B


For weeks Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to push the Syrian Arab Army back to the lines that existed in northwestern Syria at the time of the September 2019 agreement he struck with Vladimir Putin for a de-escalation zone, there. After the Feb. 27 incident in which a Syria air strike killed 33 Turkish soldiers it looked like that operation was on, but by the time Erdogan boarded his plane for Moscow to meet with Putin today, it had clearly failed, with the SAA having regained most of the territory that it had lost to the jihadi groups last week, despite the fact that the jihadis were backed by Turkish artillery and drone fire. So, Erdogan landed in Moscow in a position of having to save face, rather than in a position to make demands of Putin.

After six hours of negotiations, Putin and Erdogan emerged, accompanied by their relevant ministers, to announce that they had agreed to a new cease fire, recognizing the status quo as it existed today, rather than that of a year and a half ago. According to Sputnik News, it includes the following main points:

* A ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province will start at 00:01 on 6 March.
* Russia and Turkey will start joint patrols on the M4 highway in Syria. The patrolling will take place from the settlement of Tronba, located 2km west of the strategic town of Saraqib, to the settlement of Ain al Havr.
* A 12-km security corridor for Syria’s Idlib province will be established to the north and to the south of the highway. “The specific parameters of the functioning of the security corridor will be agreed upon by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Turkish Republic within seven days”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
* Both countries agreed on efforts to prevent further aggravation of the humanitarian situation in Syria.
* All additional protocols to the document will come into force from the moment of its signature on 5 March.

The tone of the meeting, however, was set by Putin at the outset with a solid rebuke of Erdogan for his operation in Idlib. In effect, he said, we're sorry for the losses you suffered but you have to stop supporting terrorists in Syria. "The situation in the Idlib zone in Syria has deteriorated so much that we need to have a direct and personal discussion," Putin said in opening remarks before they went behind closed doors. "First of all, I would like to express our sincere condolences over the death of your military personnel in Syria. Loss of life is always a big tragedy. Regrettably, as I have told you by telephone, nobody, including the Syrian military, was aware of your troops’ location. At the same time, there were casualties among Syrian servicemen as well. The Syrian army reported major losses."

"Therefore, we need to discuss everything and analyse the current developments so that, first, this does not happen again and, second, that this does not damage Russian-Turkish relations, which I know that you value as well," Putin concluded.

Erdogan, who seemed to have been chastened by the developments of the past few days, expressed more concern about not letting disagreements damage Russian-Turkish relations than getting what he wanted in Idlib, "I know that the entire world is watching us today and I think that the action and decisions we take today will definitely have a mitigating effect," he said. "This is a time when the relations between our countries have indeed reached a peak. Of course, this concerns the defence industry, trade and other areas; they continue developing. We believe and say that we need to make progress in this area. In fact, this is our biggest task, to move forward and develop our relations. I believe we will succeed."

The neo-con war party in washington, led by the likes of James Jeffrey, Lindsey Graham and others, who had scheming to split Turkey from Russia and provide Turkey with military support in Syria, are not happy tonight.



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14 Responses to Putin, Erdogan Agree On New Cease Fire In Idlib

  1. sbin says:

    Trump and Biden as potential international statesmen.
    Putin has been consistent on international law and order.
    Love my country but America has been poorly served for quite some time.
    If you are exceptional there is no need to announce it others will recognize it.

  2. Leith says:

    Ain al-Havr as far as I can determine is in Latakia Province on the M4 just outside of Idlib Province. So that means Jisr al-Shigour will be smack in the middle of the 12km wide security corridor, and it will be subject to Russo/Turkish patrols.
    Here is a link to a tentative map of the security corridor: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ESXYFUuXQAAG65o?format=jpg&name=medium
    That area is controlled by the Turkistan Islamic Party manned by Uighurs, Central Asians, and Chechens. They are not going to sit by idly when Russian patrols pass through what they consider “their city”. And the jihadis south of the M4 will be unwillingly be cut off from their fellow jihadis to the north.
    Erdogan knows all that. Either that or he got snookered. But at least this buys him some time. It temporarily maintains his relations with Putin. And it keeps the gas pipeline deal in place which the Turkish economy desperately needs.

  3. Barbara Ann says:

    Well it seems Erdogan’s therapy is going very well and he’s moved on to Kübler-Ross stage 3 (bargaining) already. In fact I’d be surprised if he wasn’t already entering stage 4 (depression) at the now very apparent end of his neo-Ottoman dreams.
    Apparently one of the jokes currently doing the rounds in Turkey is: “If this negotiating team had gone to Lausanne*, we would be celebrating joint patrols with the Greeks in Ankara.”
    *Where the treaty setting Turkey’s modern borders was agreed in 1923 following Turkey’s successful war of independence, led by Ataturk.

  4. anon says:

    far better outcome for the long term,maybe not the short term.A filtering process can now take place at a slow but sure pace.This was to be a highly strategic move in the end game and it got stopped in its tracks.

  5. turcopolier says:

    IMO this deal will fare no better than the last one. Syria has no choice but to continue the process of recovering her territory.

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    Willy B
    If I may be permitted an additional comment, on a more serious note:
    The terms of this deal appear to mean Turkey will not dispute SAG recovery of all territory south of the M4 (and in fact 6km north of it too). That is a mighty thick slice of salami Putin has managed to carve off.
    I agree with @Leith that the miscellany of foreign jihadis will certainly contest this territory, including Jisr. But the key difference now is surely that the TSK will no longer support them in this area, at least with artillery and other explicit means. “Ceasefire” is probably a misnomer then. In reality these deals represent incremental surrenders of Turkey’s territorial claims on northern Syria.
    If this deal is Sochi 2.0, perhaps we’ll see a 3.0 and even a 4.0, but the temporary deals are all leading to one thing; the status quo ante bellum – or as Assad says “every inch”.

  7. JohninMK says:

    This deal is of huge benefit to the SAA as virtually the whole of the area ceded to the south of the 6km north of the M4 line is mountainous and hence very difficult to fight through.
    As you say Willy, the lack of TA support will reduce the jihadists military abilities. This will be in terms of both lack of artillery and morale collapse due to the lack of TA backup. If they decide to stay and fight, rather than stream north to escape and fight another day, as they have tended to do to date, it won’t be easy but it will be easier than it might have been.
    This war has again shown that artillery and control of the air are war winners, without either the jihadists are doomed.

  8. plantman says:

    I would expect that the area just south of the new M4 security zone will eventually be purged of jihadist elements. It doesn’t make any sense to leave it “as is”.
    This will violate the ceasefire, but it seems like this is all headed towards new defacto borders.
    In which case, the M4 will wind up being like the Euphrates to the east, the new contour of a greatly shrunken Syria.

  9. Jane says:

    Sounds like the Erdo-Putin presser was more subdued that the telephonic shouting match. Jeffries says we are gong to give the Turks military aid, others in the administration say that no such decision has yet been made.
    In order to rally his increasingly frustrated population, he has had his media warn of another possible coup attempt by the disloyal, knowing it easily stirs up nationalism and silences a lot of criticism of his policies.
    Main opposition party CHP and AKPers came to blows in the Parliament, as the latter is furious and planning a legal case of defamation ag one cHP member who criticized Erdo’s policies that are not careful and have resulted in the deaths of so many soldiers. Meanwhile, the ultra-nationalists MHP warn Erdo NOT to pull out of Idlib and other territories, noting that if he does, Turkey will lose Hatay Province [which they swiped from Syria in the 30s.] Libya is not going so well, and is another source of criticism for his adventurism, as he can’t claim self-defense.
    And then, the Turks are frustrated and angry over the declining economy and other domestic woes. The polls should also be worrying him, with 50% saying they would not vote for him if an election would take place now.

  10. English Outsider says:

    Turkey’s commitment to Syrian territorial integrity is again spelled out in the agreement –
    “Reaffirming their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
    Echoing a similar undertaking relating to NE Syria last year –
    “1. The two sides reiterate their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of Turkey.”
    Well, it’s there in writing, anyway. Whether Erdogan signed with his fingers crossed no one seems to know. But the Russians have a habit of taking these things seriously so perhaps that doesn’t matter.
    The NYT report is about as slanted as it gets –
    ” … “terrorists” — the word Russia and Syria both use to describe anti-government rebels ..”
    It does not mention this Turkish commitment.
    I remember the days when we thought the NYT was the gold standard. Were we wrong then too?

  11. different clue says:

    English Outsider,
    Yes, I think we have been mistaken about the NYTimes for at least some decades. It has coated itself with gold foil in order to hide its radioactive lead core. And the gold foil has been wearing off in places.
    I remember back in the early 1980s, that when some oil companies wanted to drill for oil all over the George’s Bank off Maine, which was American Territorial Waters’s most important cod spawning ground; that the New York Times supported it and sneered at the concerns over petro-destruction to an important food source as being about ” a few fish”. Whereas the Wall Street Journal ran editorials on its editorial page condemning the proposal to drill for oil on the George’s Bank as being special interest crony-favoritism shown to one single industry’s special interest against every other industry’s special interest in the region, as well as being against the “public interest” in general.
    That is when I realized that the Wall Street Journal ( at that time at least) was the voice of philosophical and ideological capitalism, whereas the New York Times was the special interest propaganda mouthpiece of certain politically favored and influential kleptons and plutons, in this case the marine-life mass-biocidal oil industry. And that was way back in the early 1980s.
    ( Luckily, the drilling plans were crushed; and America still had some cod from the George’s Bank even after the central government of Canada oversaw the complete commercial extermination for a time of the Grand Banks cod fishery).

  12. different clue says:

    I do not know if blogger-websiter John Helmer of Dances With Bears is considered a respectable and worthwhile voice by this blog. If he is, then perhaps this interesting-to-me article by John Helmer about the Putin-Erdogan meeting in the light of longer-standing Turco-Russian ( Ottoman-Czarist) history might be considered worthy of reading.
    It is titled: “The Catherine Principle for Negotiating With the Turks – Let Arms Do the Talking”
    Here is the link.

  13. H.Schmatz says:

    Erdogan´s high bets in Syria have less to do with neo-ottomanism and more with continuing stealing/smuggling of oil, as this map demonstrates. Look at the security zone claimed by Turkey.
    Idlib would serve only as vivarium for proxy forces to be used wherever in Syrian territory are needed to obstaculize the advance of SAA and its allied forces to regain tha parts of its country occupied by foreign forces.

  14. Barbara Ann says:

    @different clue
    Thanks for the link to John Helmer’s take on the deal. I particularly like his definition of the “Catherine [the Great] Principal”:

    “The principle is that nothing the Turks say they agree to or sign can be relied upon; and that everything the Turks can’t achieve with their army will be tested again and again, until and unless they are defeated by the battle of arms and the defence of territory by more force than the Turks can overcome.”

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