By Mehmet Akif Parlak
GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AA) — A major disarmament initiative carried out recently in Syria’s Idlib — within the context of a landmark Turkish-Russian agreement — has been completed, according to Mohamed Wajeeh Jumaa, head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly (STA).
"Idlib’s doors are now open,” Jumaa told Anadolu Agency on Thursday. “People are now talking about how local administrations will function and how public services will be provided.”
“The people of the region want to see the kind of environment that emerged after Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations,” he added.
Jumaa described the Turkish-Russian agreement — signed on Sept. 17 in the Russian resort city of Sochi — as “deeply significant for the region’s future”.
Noting that Syrian armed opposition groups had since removed their heavy weaponry from Idlib’s frontline, he stressed that all aspects of the Sochi deal had now been implemented.
"All heavy weapons have been withdrawn from Idlib’s frontline,” Jumaa said. “The expectations of the international community — and those of the people of Idlib — have now been met.”
“The Sochi agreement was a significant diplomatic success for Turkey,” he added. “Turkey registered considerable gains, both in the field and at the negotiating table.”
“People in Idlib now feel secure,” Jumaa asserted. “The possibility of renewed conflict in the region has fallen to zero.”
He added: “The period of killings and forced displacement has ended. The process is now moving along in line with Turkish plans.”
The Turkmen leader went on to say that Turkish humanitarian aid to the region was deeply appreciated by the local population and the international community.
“The people now expect adequate public services; there must be functioning hospitals and schools,” he said. “People’s lives must return to normal now that the conflict is over.”
At the Sept. 17 Sochi talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had proposed additional measures for maintaining the ceasefire in Idlib.
The deal that they eventually signed called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone in Idlib, control of which is to be handed over to Turkish and Russian forces on Oct. 15.
In line with the agreement, Syrian armed opposition factions — along with other anti-regime groups — completed the sought-for withdrawal of all heavy weaponry from Idlib’s frontline on Tuesday.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara