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Turkish-Iranian Deal under Russian Auspices: Idlib in Exchange for South Damascus | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rouhani, Putin and Erdogan. Reuters

London- There are signs of a new deal between Ankara and Tehran under the auspices of Moscow.

The deal includes Turkish military presence in Idlib in exchange for Iranian control over the south of Damascus and the expansion of Sayyeda Zainab area, which means providing a mass of permanent influence on the political decision in Damascus.

If the parties succeed in reaching an agreement in the coming Astana meeting on Thursday and Friday as planned, it will be a new step in Russia’s distribution for areas of influence on regional and major countries in Syria.

It will also be an additional reference to Moscow’s intentions to put pressure on Damascus to accept the Turkish military presence in northern Syria in a deeper way than the role of the Turkish army in the “Euphrates Shield” operation northern Aleppo.

Since Russia, Turkey and Iran have reached an agreement in May 2016 during Astana talks to form de-escalation zones in four Syrian areas (Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, Homs and Syria’s southwest areas) following a ceasefire agreement at the end of last year, Turkey proposed a military presence in the four areas and then reduced its request to Idlib.

The Iranian response back then was by submitting similar proposal while Russia’s response was to send military observers, who were later agreed on to be Sunnis from Chechnya.

Moscow prevented the forces of the regime, its allies and Hezbollah from breaking into Idlib after Aleppo, stopped the US air raids on leaders of Nusra Front in Idlib early this year.

Moscow also froze this complicated file amid the gathering of elements of Nusra Front, their families and opponents in Idlib to include two million people.

It focused, instead, on the three other de-escalation zones, and concluded a deal with the United States and Jordan to implement the “southern truce” and with Cairo to implement the ceasefire in Ghouta and Homs before the extension of the truce to the eastern Qalamoun.

“By observing Iran’s priorities it is clear that it wants to provide a population on the outskirts of Damascus and between Damascus and the Lebanese borders that will be pro-Tehran so that the political decision in the capital could be influenced regardless of the ruler,” a Western official said Monday.

The implementation of the “Zabadani-Fuah Agreement” was also resumed Monday by delivering humanitarian aid.

This coincided with Tehran’s approval on Ankara’s proposal to play a direct military role in Idlib; the interests of the two countries met with Russia’s interest.

The Russian army has deployed in Afrin, north of Aleppo, and set up a de-escalation zone between the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish “People Protection Units,” Turkey’s rivals.