Since early 2016, five attempts at a ceasefire have failed in Syria. Yet, this morning all was quiet in Idlib province according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
For most of 2020, increasingly brutal fighting in Syria’s Northeastern Idlib province between Turkish troops and its proxies fighting Russian-backed Syrian regime forces appeared to bring Russia and Turkey ever closer towards direct conflict.
As Turkey is a member of NATO such a conflict could quickly spiral out of control, with consequences reaching far outside of Syria, especially as both president’s appear to use foreign policy posturing as a means to shore up support with their own population.
Yet, many of the issues endangering the current absence of violence were not resolved by the meeting. Syrian forces remain entrenched around Turkish military installations and no concrete agreement was reached to protect the local population and displaced Syrians attempting to make their way to Turkey and beyond.
Read also: Turkey and Russia: Partners or Adversaries?
The ceasefire agreement emphasizes the establishment of a secure corridor, a move that is vital for refugees and internally displaced people. However, no definitive agreement was reached on the size and implications of such a corridor, postponing the decision for another week, when Russian and Turkish defense ministers meet.
The Turkish and Russian parties envision the security corridor to follow the important M4 highway, dividing Idlib province from East to West. As part of the agreement Idlib province will see joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the M4 highway.
The current ceasefire appears to have brought some calm to the geopolitical powder-keg that Idlib province represents. After weeks of escalating tensions, casualties and rhetorical bluster by Syrian and Turkish leadership, it appears a clash between Turkey and Russia has become less likely, although little structural change has been realized.
Conditions on the ground have improved with the absence of open warfare. For the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are seeking shelter or attempting to make their way across the Turkish border. Unfortunately, as usual, little was done to assist displaced people and refugees in the region Yet, as long as the ceasefire holds, the absence of violence should allow for a brief respite for locals and refugees.