Turkey and Russia agree to speed up construction of observation posts in northern Idlib

By Séamus Malekafzali

Idlib - In a telephone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin today, Turkish President Erdogan agreed to speed up joint construction of observation posts in the Turkish-occupied pocket in northern Idlib that borders Afrin Canton.

A Turkish military outpost is constructed in northern rural Idlib province in late November 2017.

A Turkish military outpost is constructed in northern rural Idlib province in late November 2017.

The initial entrance of the Turkish military into Idlib came about in the wake of the Astana Agreement reached in the latter half of last year, which saw Iran, Russia, and Turkey agree to an establishment of a de-escalation zone in the area. As of the time of this writing, the Turkish Army has occupied nearly the entirety of the border area between the Syrian rebels of Idlib and the YPG-held Afrin Canton, save for a small pocket adjacent to the Kurdish-held town of Bashamrah. Russian and Iranian forces have yet to enter the area currently occupied by Turkey.

Turkey's incursion into Idlib was met with little resistance from rebels in the area, nevertheless leading to an internal split within HTS, the former holders of the territory that Turkey came to occupy. The former faction, led by Abu Mariya al-Qahtani, approved of the action, seeing as it as an effective buffer to protect against future Kurdish attacks or possibly even future Syrian government attacks, and the latter faction, led by the commander of HTS, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, who said supporting foreign intervention in the province was treason.