On March 25, ‘anonymous Turkish officials’ denied to Reuters that Turkey had agreed to reopen three humanitarian crossings in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib between opposition and government-held areas.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria announced the breakthrough agreement with Turkey a day earlier. Under the agreement, three crossings should be reopened; one in Saraqib in Idlib and two others in Abu Zindain and Mizanaz in Aleppo.
Syrian authorities reopened Saraqib and Abu Zindain crossings in on March 25. However, both remained blocked by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de facto ruler of Greater Idlib. Turkish forces did not move to facilitate the agreement.
The supposed Turkish officials told Reuters that Russia proposed to reopen the three crossings in the past, but no passage requests were received. The officials added that the crossings “were not used very effectively”.
The officials statement failed to mention the fact that these crossings are blocked with force by HTS and several other armed groups, some of which are backed by Turkey.
Such reports and statements are likely meant to undermine the agreement credibility and please militants in Greater Idlib, who violate the ceasefire in the region on a regular basis.
Prior to Reuters’ report, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. The two reportedly agreed to take measures to ensure the prevention of ceasefire violations in Greater Idlib.
In the last three years, Ankara made multiple promises on the Greater Idlib dilemma. So far, almost none of these promises have been fulfilled.