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Can Russia deliver a deal for Idlib between Turkey, Syria?

In Idlib, Moscow finds itself between the devil and the deep blue sea — a possible Syrian government offensive and Turkish constraints — but there is still reason to believe it can come up with a mutually acceptable deal for Damascus and Ankara.
Members of the Syrian civil defence search for victims amidst destruction from reported air strikes in the town of Kafraya in the north of Idlib province on March 22, 2019. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Tensions continue to escalate in Syria's Idlib "deescalation zone," now primarily controlled by radical militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The zone, often referred to as Greater Idlib, also encompasses parts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces. Violence breaks out sporadically there between Syrian regime forces and the opposition and threatens to turn into a new, large-scale fight for the area.

Since late March, Russia has been promoting a narrative that HTS militants are planning a chemical provocation, supposedly aided by security forces of “certain Western nations.” Some media sources point to civilians departing Idlib as a sign they fear a chemical attack. According to certain reports, Syrian government troops recently discovered 20 containers of a “phosgene-like” substance in Taibat Al-Imam neighborhood near the Idlib deescalation zone.

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