Syria's Al-Qaeda Will Accept Idlib Deal

No jihadists seen exiting Syria buffer zone on eve of deadline — monitor

The Kremlin on Tuesday said a deal to create a buffer in Syria's Idlib was going ahead, despite extremists missing a deadline to leave the zone the day before.

The deal sets up a demilitarized zone running 15-20 km (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that must be evacuated of all heavy weapons and all terrorist groups by Monday, Oct. 15.

"After Idlib, our goal will be east of the Euphrates", he said, referring to an area controlled by a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by the US-led coalition.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had not observed any fighters leaving the outlined demilitarised area by the time midnight struck.

"We did not document the withdrawal of any jihadist fighters from the entire demilitarized zone", he said. Under the plan, all militant and terrorist groups must hand over their heavy weapons by October 10.

Idlib Province contains the largest concentration of Takfiri terrorists who have been driven out of the rest of the country by the Syrian army and its allies.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin signaled on September 20 for the first time that if necessary, Turkey may use military action to remove the Levant Liberation Committee from the Idlib demilitarized zone in coordination with Russian Federation.

And deadly mortar rounds fired late Saturday from the planned buffer, according to the Britain-based monitor, appeared to indicate the first part of the deal was not fully implemented either.

"We have not abandoned our choice of jihad and fighting towards implementing our blessed revolution", said Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

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Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the "stabilization" of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Days ahead of an October 10 deadline, Turkey-backed rebels and an al-Qaida-linked alliance pulled their heavy weaponry back from the front lines in accordance with the deal struck between the Russian and Turkish presidents.

Al-Ahmad said the group's leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, and the Syrian members are close to the Turkish side, while the foreign fighters are opposed to the deal.

Hurras al-Deen, an even more hardline faction, has rejected it.

HTS and other hard-line groups, which together hold over two-thirds of the planned buffer, also appeared to have quietly met the first target date and pulled heavy arms out of the zone.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other top government officials have awarned that the Idlib deal was only a "temporary" measure.

"Russia wants a diplomatic solution to seal its military success", said Dmitri Trenin, director of the independent Carnegie Moscow Center.

He warned, however, that the situation in Idlib can not continue if the extremists do not comply with the agreement for the area, on the day of a critical deal deadline.

The deal required all heavy weaponry and radical militants to be moved by Monday out of the buffer zone, which will be supervised by Russian and Turkish troops.

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