The liberation of Syria’s Idlib province from terrorists will require rather difficult negotiations with Turkey, because this de-escalation zone is its responsibility, Head of the Center of the Near and Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin told TASS on Friday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier told Russian reporters that Idlib and other areas where terrorists operate will be a priority for the Syrian army.

According to Fitin, to eliminate the terrorist stronghold in the area, it is necessary to conduct negotiations taking into account the interests of all parties, primarily Turkey. “These talks [will be] very difficult and comprehensive,” the expert stressed.

He recalled that militants who earlier left other Syrian regions are currently in Idlib. “These are members of the Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group, outlawed in Russia – TASS), which changed its name to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Free Syrian Army and various Jihadist units, which were sent in particular from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

“Turkey has many other interests [in Idlib]. First of all, it wants not only to preserve but also to expand the buffer zone on the border with Syria, and it needs the absence of counteraction on the part of both the US and Russia,” Fitin stressed.

According to the expert, “while eliminating the terrorist enclave in Idlib, [the Syrian army] also needs to take into account the presence of the Kurds and Americans in the northeast.”

Terrorists in Idlib

The Idlib province was captured by armed groups and al-Nusra terrorists in 2015. In accordance with the reconciliation agreement, militants from radical armed groups who refused to surrender to Syrian government forces in Aleppo, Homs and Eastern Ghouta (near Damascus) where counterterrorism operations were conducted were evacuated to the Idlib province via the humanitarian corridors. Members of the irreconcilable armed groups from southern Syria, specifically, Daraa and Quneitra currently travel to that region.

In 2017, the Idlib province became part of the northern de-escalation zone, which is Turkey’s area of responsibility. Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, is a guarantor nation of the Syrian ceasefire within the framework of the Astana process.

The next conference of participants in the Astana talks is scheduled to be held in Sochi on July 30-31.