News ID: 232430
Published: 0609 GMT October 07, 2018

Turkish-backed militants to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone

Turkish-backed militants to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone

Turkish-backed militants says they expect to finish withdrawing heavy weapons from a planned buffer zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib within days, conforming to a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey that has so far held off a government offensive on the last major terrorist stronghold in Syria.

Naci Mustafa, a spokesman for the National Front for the Liberation of Syria affiliated with the so-called Free Syria Army, said the militant groups had begun removing heavy weapons from the frontlines in a bid for a 15 to 20-kilometer (9-12 mile) demilitarized zone to be set up.

Mustafa said the light weapons would remain and that his comrades would continue digging ditches as a measure against Syrian army advances, Presstv Reported.

“The removal of heavy weapons is being carried out with the coordination of Turkish authorities,” he said.

“According to the set deadline, the withdrawal of heavy weapons will end on October 10. The operation is ongoing,” an unnamed NLF commander said.

“We are reinforcing our positions and are ready to face any confrontation,” he added.

Under a deal reached following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on September 17, all militants in the demilitarized zone, which surrounds Idlib and also parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo and Hama, must pull out heavy arms by Wednesday, and Takfiri groups must withdraw by October 15.

The NLF is the main Turkish-backed militant alliance in the Idlib region, but the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits, largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, holds a large part of the province and the zone.

HTS, which is said to be in control of some 60 percent of Idlib province, has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.

It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 members of different factions of armed groups, which Syria, Russia and Turkey consider terrorists, are active in the volatile province, which is home to around three million inhabitants.

Russia believes that a buffer zone would help stop attacks from Idlib-based militants on Syrian army positions and Russia's military bases in the flashpoint region.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

 

 

   
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