Rebel and extremist groups in Syria begin withdrawal from demilitarised zone in Idlib

Rebel and extremist groups in Syria begin withdrawal from demilitarised zone in Idlib

Today, all ‘radical terrorist groups’ in the Idlib Province of Syria, are to have withdrawn from a recently created demilitarised

Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan attend a news conference in Sochi

Photo: Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Today, all ‘radical terrorist groups’ in the Idlib Province of Syria, are to have withdrawn from a recently created demilitarised zone that is supported by government and rebel forces. All forces are to withdraw by the end of today.

The creation of the buffer zone is designed to separate rebels in Idlib from advancing government forces, which have led a campaign to recapture the last rebel-held region in the country in recent weeks . The agreement for the creation of the buffer zone is being overseen by both Turkey and Russia, which have backed opposite sides throughout the conflict, but seek to avoid violent conflict in this instance. The most significant aspect of the agreement is its call for the withdrawal of all “radical terrorist groups” from the region by today, including the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group. Additionally, there have been international calls to monitor the safety of civilians.

With all sides seeking to avoid escalating a conflict that the UN has warned could quickly turn into one of the worst humanitarian situations of the war, legitimate verification by both Ankara and Moscow of the withdrawal will be crucial. However, as hardline jihadist groups are unlikely to heed any efforts at de-escalating the conflict in Idlib, complications with the buffer zone should be expected.

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