Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet in Ankara today to discuss the
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet in Ankara today to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria’s Idlib province.
Idlib, home to some 1.5 million people, is the last major enclave of anti-regime forces. The parties have attempted to find a ceasefire or demilitarisation agreement on two occasions since last year, but there has been no cessation of fighting. In recent days, the Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes have continued bombarding Idlib.
How quickly the war will come to a close will depend in part on whether Turkey and Russia can reach an agreement on Idlib. Russia’s primary objective is to aid regime forces in wiping out the last remnants of rebellion in the region. Turkey opposes an all-out offensive against Idlib out of fear that such an assault would push a large number of refugees into Turkey, bringing with them members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda linked group active in the province. Turkish military forces in the area would also risk being caught in the crossfire of a sudden advance.
An agreement likely to satisfy both Moscow and Ankara would limit Russia’s role in the final stage of the war and put government forces at the forefront of the assault on Idlib. Ankara would like this assault tempered even more, with a focus on achieving strategic victory over a scorched earth approach.