02:19 GMT29 May 2020
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    The Russian and Turkish presidents negotiated a ceasefire agreement on 5 March to end the recent escalation of tensions in Syria's Idlib Province. The flare-up was triggered by attacks of local terrorists against Syrian forces and the latter’s retaliatory strikes that resulted in the deaths of Turkish troops caught in the crossfire.

    The ceasefire agreement negotiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan has successfully ended the fighting between the Syrian forces and militants entrenched in Idlib the next day after being signed.

    The accord also finally ensured proper measures to open and guard the M4 highway, which was supposed to happen back when the 2018 Sochi agreements were signed. The highway is crucial for enabling trade and other economic activities in Syria, but it was controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* terrorists.

    Syrian militants rest after taking part in the liberation of the Sukeya village in Syria's Idlib province.
    © Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresensky
    Syrian militants rest after taking part in the liberation of the Sukeya village in Syria's Idlib province.

    At the same time, the new agreement, signed in Moscow, essentially secured the status-quo that was achieved by the Syrian Army in recent months in the course of the "Idlib Dawn" offensive, former Russian serviceman and the chief editor of the "Fatherland's Arsenal" journal, Victor Murakhovsky, says. He adds, however, that the accord is rather fragile.

    Terrorist Groups' Issues

    During the presser dedicated to the new ceasefire agreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that his country's troops reserve the right to respond to" any hostile actions" of the Syrian Army. In this case, the ceasefire could be violated if Damascus retaliates against terrorists attacking its positions.

    At the same time, it's unclear just how well Idlib terrorist groups such as Tahrir al-Sham* will adhere to the ceasefire and how much control Turkey has over them, Murakhovsky says. He wondered what will happen with the ceasefire regime if Tahrir al-Sham* chooses to shell Syrian Army positions.

    "The situation is akin to a performance of a man who juggles maces while balancing on a rubber ball. A slightest mistake can lead to a disaster", Murakhovsky summarised, while adding that both the Moscow and Sochi agreements have a lot of "grey", unregulated or unspecified areas.
    A boy looks at a convoy of Turkish military vehicles near the town of Hazano in the rebel-held northern countryside of Syria's Idlib province on March 3, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / Aaref Watad
    A boy looks at a convoy of Turkish military vehicles near the town of Hazano in the rebel-held northern countryside of Syria's Idlib province on March 3, 2020.

    Orhan Gafarli, a Turkey expert from the Ankara Policy Centre, believes that in order to prevent another escalation and preserve the Moscow agreement, members of the Astana format, Russia, Turkey and Iran, must engage in discussions on fighting terrorists in Syria.

    "Terrorists are the key problem of the region. Sides must agree on how they combat militants in Idlib. Otherwise [Syrian President Bashar] Assad might use lack of Turkey's activities to fight them as a pre-text [to restart the offensive]", Gafarli says.

    *Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or al-Qaeda in Syria) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    ceasefire, Russia, Turkey, Idlib, Syria
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