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Syrian hardliners signal acceptance of Idlib deal

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (L) shake hands during a press conference following their meeting at Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on 10 October 2016 [Metin Pala/Anadolu Agency]
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and President of Russia Vladimir Putin (L) shake hands during a press conference following their meeting at Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on 10 October 2016 [Metin Pala/Anadolu Agency]

Syria’s main hardliner group signalled on Sunday it would abide by the terms of a Russian-Turkish deal to prevent a Syrian government offensive on rebel-held Idlib the day before a critical deadline Reuters reports.

Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist alliance spearheaded by al Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, said it had adopted its stance after taking time for “consultation”.

Although it did not explicitly say it would abide by the deal, it said it would seek to provide security for people in the area it controls and that it appreciated efforts to protect that area, an apparent reference to Turkey.

Idlib’s other main rebel faction, a Turkish-aligned alliance of groups known as the National Liberation Front, has already expressed its support for the agreement.

Read: Syrian refugees in Turkey and the changing concept of Turkish citizenship

The deal sets up a demilitarised zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that must be evacuated of all heavy weapons and all hardliner groups by Monday, 15 October.

Turkey has been working to persuade Tahrir al-Sham to comply with the agreement, which was arranged with the Syrian government’s main ally Russia to avert an assault that it feared would send a new wave of refugees towards its border.

However, Tahrir al-Sham also said in its statement, issued via its social media channels, that it would not end its jihad or hand over its weapons.

Idlib and adjacent areas are the last strongholds of rebels who rose against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. It is also home to an estimated 3 million people, more than half of whom have already been displaced at least once during the war.

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Europe & RussiaMiddle EastNewsRussiaSyriaTurkey
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