Assad's offensive: what's at stake in Idlib?

The fighting has intensified in the Syrian province of Idlib, which had been declared a de-escalation zone. Supported by Russia, Assad's army is advancing through the rebel-held territory towards the city of Khan Shaykhun, prompting a mass exodus from the area. Meanwhile tensions between Ankara and Moscow have escalated after a Turkish military convoy was hit in an airstrike.

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Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Turkey caught in the crossfire

The Syrian regime's attacks on the Turkish troops in Idlib last week are part of a large-scale strategy, the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak comments:

“It doesn't make sense to take the Damascus regime's threats seriously when it can't defeat the Free Syrian Army without Russia's support in the air and Iran's on the ground. It's clear that Russia is taking advantage of the cancellation of the agreement signed last year [for a ceasefire in Idlib] to drive Turkey into a corner in the region. Some take the view that this is its revenge for Ankara's latest attempt to work together with the US.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

High time for a new constitution for Syria

Moscow and Damascus must breathe new life into the Astana peace process, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah urges:

“The buffer zone around the Idlib province would create the quiet period needed to write a new, democratic constitution for war-torn Syria. Obviously, the idea of a new constitution itself was the main problem for the Syrian regime. Russian acquiescence to it surprised many, to say the least. But they agreed to it as part of the Astana process. ... The not so well-thought-out Syrian response in Idlib [aimed at Turkish guard posts last week] not only endangers the Turkish military in observation points around Idlib, but also carries a prospect of renewed all-out civilian war in Syria. ... To keep Syria in one piece, a democratic constitution should be created at once, and free and fair elections should take place in the country.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A dictatorship in Damascus is not the solution

Europe would be well advised to take action on Syria, warns columnist Lorenzo Cremonesi in Corriere della Sera:

“We Europeans are distracted. No one believes any more in the desire for freedom and democratic renewal which above all in Syria characterised the outbreak of the 'Arab Spring' in 2011. Many of us are of the opinion that in view of the Islamic extremism that has found a breeding ground in the countries destabilised by revolt, a dictator is the right means to 'bring things in order'. But reports from Idlib and the surrounding area indicate that despite everything a large part of the Syrian civilian population doesn't want the restoration of the regime. ... 'Terrorists are the children of dictatorships,' says the Algerian intellectual Kamel Daoud. For this reason alone we should be worried about the developments in Syria.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Moscow's obscure strategy

Novaya Gazeta sees another fall-out between Russia and Turkey coming:

“For Ankara it doesn't matter so much whether or not Russian planes were involved in the attack on the Turkish convoy: the Turks hold Russia responsible anyway, since it had pledged not to allow any active attacks on the part of Damascus and Tehran. A harsh statement from the Turkish defence ministry makes this clear. But a key question for all sides is: how much pressure can Russia actually assert on Damascus and Tehran? And also: Does it want to adhere to the agreements on Idlib at all, or is Moscow more worried about eliminating this 'terrorist nest' at any cost in order to announce a well-founded 'victory of Russian weapons against the terrorism in Syria'?”

Hürriyet (TR) /

No alternative to dialogue with Russia

Since Turkey doesn't want to give up its bases in Syria it should try to defuse the tensions through diplomacy, Hürriyet stresses:

“Due to the difficulties in the field the Turkish military presence requires some form of negotiations with Syria and/or Russia. Perhaps Russia also believes it has now found an opportunity to bring Turkey into a dialogue with Syria and realize the strategy of getting it to sit down at the negotiating table. ... But as long as Turkey opts not to conduct a dialogue with Syria it will be forced to let the whole process run through Russia once more. This situation is likely to strengthen Moscow vis-à-vis Ankara in the Syria equation.”