Certain members of the US-led coalition fighting against Daesh* support militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* terrorist group in the Syrian province of Idlib as they are aspiring to wreck the Russian-Turkish agreement on de-escalation zone, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.
“Certain partners from the coalition support HTS… First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it”, Cavusoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper.
He specified that some Western countries from the coalition were provoking HTS militants to violate the provisions of the Idlib memorandum by paying them money for it.
“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them [HTS militants] from there”, Cavusoglu added, noting that the countries of origin of foreign fighters from HTS were unwilling to take them back. “There are many people leaving the HTS after we came to the field”.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that HTS militants were actively building up their forces along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government in Idlib’s de-escalation zone.
Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line between armed opposition groups and Syrian government forces, while the Russian and Turkish defence ministers signed a memorandum on stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, the agreements have not been fully implemented yet, and over 10 different militant groups are currently operating in Idlib.
* Daesh (also known as ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) and Al-Nusra Front (also known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or al-Qaeda in Syria) are terrorist groups banned in Russia.