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Turkey Is Already in Breach of the Putin-Erdogan Truce on Syria

In exchange for the ceasefire, Turkey took it upon itself to enable Russian-Turkish patrols along the stretch of the M4 highway in rebel hands by March 15th. That has yet to happen.

On March 15, the Russian Military Police and Turkish forces conducted first joint patrol in southern Idlib. According to agreements reached in Moscow, the patrol was set to be conducted along the part of the M4 highway, where a buffer zone had to be established.

This included the withdrawal of heavy weapons and radical armed groups (al-Qaeda & friends) from the area. However, this did not happen. Furthermore, the countryside of Jisr al-Shughur remains the stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party.

So, Ankara and Moscow decided to conduct a limited patrol west of Saraqib to avoid an expected escalation and attacks on the patrol. Even this effort did not go without difficulties.

Turkish forces failed to reopen the M4 highway (blocked by militant supporters) and the patrol took place only in a few km west of the government-controlled town of Sraqib (on the crossroad of the M5 and M4 highways.

In an official statement on the situation, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the patrol was limited because of provocations prepared by radical armed groups that Turkey does not control. The statement says that terrorists planned to use civilians, including women and children, to stage the provocation. Therefore, in order to avoid possible civilian casualties, the length of the patrol was reduced.

Surprisingly, the Turkish Defense Ministry admitted that there were some measures taken to prevent possible provocations. However, it forgot to note what kind of difficulties the sides experienced.

The March 15 patrol is an attempt to demonstrate the new de-escalation agreement in Moscow is working. Nonetheless, while the ceasefire was really establsihed in the area, terrorists remained on their positions inside the agreed buffer zone. If the situation does not change, this will set ground for a new round of escalation in the region.

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