In a bid to avoid massive loss of life in the event of a major assault by Syrian government forces, Turkey has drawn up a plan that would allow militants safe passage from the northwestern province, the newspaper Daily Sabah reported.
According to the plan, unveiled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting with his Russian and Iranian counterparts in Tehran to discuss the war in Syria and a possible military offensive to retake the rebel enclave of Idlib, 12 armed groups, including the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, would surrender their weapons.
The fighters would then be evacuated to a buffer zone under the surveillance of the so-called moderate opposition on condition that they hand over their weapons to a coalition of militant groups backed by Ankara, the newspaper wrote without revealing its sources.
Foreign fighters would be allowed to return to their home countries, but the groups who refused to disarm and move out would become the target of counter-terror operations.
Turkey will then train a militant force to ensure security in the province, just like in other Syrian regions controlled by Ankara-backed fighters.
Fearing that a major assault on Idlib could cause “disaster” and send refugees streaming across its borders, Turkey has spent the past few weeks in intense negotiations with Russia.
Sources: Sputnik, Daily Sabah