Turkey, Iran, Russia to deploy observers around Idlib

:: Russia, Iran and Turkey will post observers on the edge of a de-escalation zone in northern Syria’s Idlib region largely controlled by radical militants, the three nations said on Friday.

The move is part of a broader plan under which Moscow, Tehran and Ankara will set up four such zones in different parts of Syria, an idea described by critics as de facto partitioning of the war-torn nation.

While they hailed the agreement as a breakthrough after months of talks, Moscow, Tehran and Ankara provided very few details and said some issues were still to be worked out.

They denied charges of aiming to partition the country, however, saying the zones where they plan to deploy forces would be temporary, although they could be extended beyond an initial six-month term.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and Russian and Iranian diplomats who attended trilateral talks in Kazakhstan said on Friday their observers would be stationed in “safe zones” along the border of the Idlib de-escalation area. The Turkish ministry said in a statement the observers’ mission will be to prevent clashes between “the (Syrian) regime and the opposition forces, and any violations of the truce.”

Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev said the trio will each send about 500 observers to Idlib, and the Russians will be military policemen.

Idlib province, in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey, is largely controlled by an opposition alliance spearheaded by the former Al-Qaeda offshoot Al-Nusra Front.

One analyst was unsure how effective the deal would be.

“I’m not sure what this deal means in practice or how or if it is going to get implemented on the ground,” said Aron Lund, a Syria specialist and fellow at The Century Foundation.

“The obvious stumbling block is the fact that much of Idlib is under the control of Tahrir Al-Sham, which is viewed internationally as a terrorist group.”

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