The de-escalation zone in northwest Syria has been the scene of puzzling developments lately, overshadowed by the conflict in Libya. Turkish military convoys have continued to stream to rebel-held Idlib, and the Syrian army has stepped up reinforcements to the region. While the mutual buildup raises the specter of a new confrontation, Syrian opposition forces claim that Ankara has reached a new understanding with Moscow under which the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey would be left to Russian control along with the key M4 and M5 highways.
The accord that Turkey and Russia sealed in Moscow March 5 called for joint patrols along M4 to secure the reopening of the road. It was only on July 22 and on their 22nd attempt that the joint patrols managed to fully cover the slated route from Taraba, west of Saraqeb, to Ain Hour in the Latakia countryside.