Erdoğan likely wanted to end Assad`s offensive in Idlib and keep the territory under his de facto control as part of a 2018 deal brokered by Russia. Russia wants to restore a balance in the region, which no doubt reflects the territorial gains of the Syrian army, without harming its relations with Turkey. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres « takes note » of the ceasefire agreement and hopes it « will lead to an immediate and lasting cessation of hostilities that will ensure the protection of civilian populations in northwestern Syria who have already suffered enormous suffering, » UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. « The solution in Idlib is that the (Syrian) regime does not diminish its hostility and withdraws to the borders in the agreements. Otherwise, we will do it before the end of February, » Erdogan said. The three-point agreement, read by the foreign ministers of both countries, also called for the creation of a seven-mile (12 km) « security corridor » along the country`s crucial M4 highway, which Russian and Turkish forces would patrol at the end of next week. Some experts doubt that this agreement is different from the agreements between Ankara and Moscow on Idlib, which have not been successful. In recent years, Turkey and Russia have had to sit at the negotiating table several times to reach an agreement on opposition-held territories in northwestern Syria. However, despite these agreements, the situation in the region, particularly in the northwestern province of Idlib, has only deteriorated without any clear solution in sight. The deal would effectively preserve some of the territorial gains made by Russian-backed Syrian forces during a three-month offensive in Idlib, the country`s last rebel stronghold, while maintaining Turkey`s position in the region.
Unlike the battle for Aleppo, Moscow does not need Tehran in Idlib and has excluded it from talks with Ankara. This has angered Iran`s leaders, who will likely try to spoil the Russian-Turkish deal by provoking the Turkish side. Turkey will probably react to all provocations, presumably with Russia`s agreement. The March 5 deal will likely follow the fate of all previous Idlib deals and will soon disintegrate. First, it did not oblige the regime to abandon the territory conquered since last year and retreat to the lines defined by the Sochi agreement of September 2018, which Turkey had repeatedly requested. Instead, it legitimized the new « reality » on the ground, that is, the territorial gains that Syrian regime forces and allied militias have been able to achieve since December. The ceasefire came after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached an agreement last week in Moscow to end a Syrian government offensive begun last year to retake Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the war-torn country. The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey said Thursday`s deal provided for a ceasefire that would be enforced along existing battle lines from midnight. .