The villages and towns in the northern countryside of Idlib are awaiting what the few upcoming days would carry for them, after the Russians have notified the committee responsible for the area of the end of the “de-escalation” agreement, which was signed in August 2017; they also placed the people in front of two choices, either to start a negotiation process with the Syrian regime or to enter another military confrontation, regardless of former agreements.
In parallel with the end of the “de-escalation” agreement, pro-regime sources promoted the idea of a close military operation, that will force the factions in the area to give up or conduct a “reconciliation” not a “truce,” which led the factions to seek option that would help protect the area and its interests.
According to the email, sent by the Russian Ministry of Defense to the Negotiations Committee in the northern countryside of Homs, the “de-escalation” agreement ends on 15 February, inconsistent with the specified timeline that started with implementing the provisions of the agreement on 14 May, 2017 to the last extension on 4 May, 2018.
“Taking the Pulse”
In an interview with the public relations official in “Harakat Ahrar al-Sham,” Nassar Nahar, h said that the military threats which rural Homs has been receiving from the Syrian regime are not new, for the military factions are aware that Assad’s forces do not keep pacts and treaties, “there reason why the current conditions are not surprising.”
He also told Enaab Baladi that the Syrian regime is trying to take the pulse of the northern countryside of Homs, to examine its readiness to confront; the regime’s steps fall under the policy of imposing pressure on the people, to achieve its ends of forcing the military factions, functioning in the area, to yield and accept the national reconciliations.
“We are taking the threats into consideration and are ready to deal with all the options; we are also committed just like the other areas with the agreements that are signed at a level with the Syrian revolution,” Nahar confirmed that the factions in northern Homs are trying to alleviate the people’s suffering as much as possible, pointing to “high level military preparation if a war is imposed.”
The military preparations are not limited to a specific faction; all the functioning military formations in the besieged countryside are in a state of alert, including “Harakat Tahrir al-Watan” (National Liberation Movement), which declared to Enab Baladi that it is getting ready to counter any military operation on the part of Assad’s forces and ally militias in the area, and considered that the regime’s positions in the surrounding of rural Homs’ cities would be the first target if the agreed upon truce is violated.
Insisting on Negotiations with the Syrian Regime
The Negotiations Committee in northern Homs has made an agreement with the Russian side, on 4 October 2017, to immediately ceasefire in the area and to open the humanitarian crossings agreed upon by the two sides, as well as handing the detainees’ file over to the Russian delegation, after an agreement that underwent violations since last August.
However, the provisions were not implemented, and Assad’s forces kept violating them every now and then, in addition to the detainees’ file that was disregarded and never finalized.
The Negotiations Committee issued a statement, on 15 February, saying that the truce will be active to next May.
Mohammad Kanj Ayoup, a member of the Committee, said that the threats directed at the northern countryside of Homs are “mere rumors, for they were not issued by an official source.”
He also told Enab Baladi that the Russians have sent an email, through which they requested moving the negotiation sessions from al-Dar al-Kabira crossing in northern Homs to Safir Hotel n the city of Homs; they said that they will provide the Committee with a full protection, back and forth, the thing which the Committee refused.
The military leader of “al-Tawhid Brigade,” (the Oneness of God) and the member of the military board in the Negotiations Committee, Ayman al-Amouri, believes that the northern countryside of Homs and the southern countryside of Hama have both been “in a state of war for five years,” and these threats are nothing new, pointing out that the factions are “ready for the war at any time.”
According to the Negotiations Committee’s statement, the Russians and the Syrian regime are trying to “gamify” the situation through reversing the facts to achieve a reconciliation, to escape the “de-escalation” agreement in northern Homs and to save Russia from embarrassment, especially that it has signed the Ankara Agreement, which is preserved by the United Nations.
The Committee considered that the regime is seeking to maneuver the realization of the agreement’s provisions through inviting personalities from northern Homs, who are based in the areas under its control, to sing reconciliations in the name of the two liberated rural areas, via “threats and inducement.”