Syrian American Council Calls on NATO Allies, Opposition to Reject Ceasefire Negotiations and Change Trajectory in Idlib
WASHINGTON D.C., March 4, 2020 – This Thursday, March 5, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin about de-escalating the situation in Idlib and avoiding a direct war between the two military powers. Since Turkish forces were attacked in Idlib last week prompting Turkey to launch operation “Spring Shield,” Turkey’s precise and effective attacks have taken a heavy toll on the Syrian military and halted their brutal advance.
It might be that President Erdogan is able to negotiate a ceasefire on Thursday that sees Assad and his allies pull back out of Idlib to the lines agreed to in the 2018 Sochi agreement. But President Erdogan must not agree to yet another empty “de-escalation” agreement that just leads to further regime gains. Turkey now has real leverage which it should use to create a permanent change in the trajectory of events, ensuring that Idlib remains under opposition control and no more innocent civilians are killed or displaced. Which also renders this the time for the United States and NATO to rise up to the occasion and help Turkey enforce a desperately needed no-fly zone, just as many U.S and other officials have called for.
Similarly, the Syrian opposition should resist all pressure to return to the negotiating table if it is clear the talks will be as farcical as earlier efforts. Russia has demonstrated repeatedly that it is an unreliable negotiating partner and is not really interested in a political solution. Before any opposition representative considers attending future negotiations, trust-building steps must be taken on the ground by Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime to at least allow for the possibility that talks could be successful, including: an immediate halt to the regime’s assault on Idlib, a pullback of Assad and allied forces to the 2018 Sochi de-escalation lines, and enforcement of a no-fly zone in northwest Syria. Dr. Zaki Lababidi, President of the Syrian American Council noted that without real change, entering into such a negotiation would be a step backwards, stating: “We have been in negotiations with the regime, Russia and Iran for more than 8 years. Without such measures from Russia and Syria there is no reason for negotiation.”
Michelle R. Taylor