Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to establish and monitor a combat-free zone in and around the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib after two days of talks on ending the country’s six-year war.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said the deal was struck in Astana, Kazakhstan, where officials have held several rounds of a Russia-backed peace initiative. The three guarantor nations agreed to deploy and coordinate forces along the boundaries of the so-called de-escalation zone to monitor for violations by opposition groups or forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Idlib province, on the border with Turkey, is largely under the control of Islamist groups.
Almost two years after Russia’s military intervention tipped the war in Assad’s favor, President Vladimir Putin is faced with the dilemma of pressing the Syrian leader into accepting a symbolic power-sharing deal to end the conflict and legitimize Russia’s military presence. Assad now controls half of the country, meaning that after the war, he’ll have to share authority with other players, including autonomy-seeking Kurds and Iran, whose military also shored him up.