The commander of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Abou Mohamed Jolani, has rejected the implementation of the terms of the Sochi agreement in Idleb, and said that the ceasefire in the province is not an agreement because he had not signed it and it had no time period.
Jolani said in statements carried by the Abaa news agency on Sunday, that the, “formula through which the ceasefire was issued is not an agreement and was not signed and has no term set. It is similar to the formula that ended fighting between us and the regime, whereby the two sides stop attacking, but remain alert and ready.”
He added: “Tahrir al-Sham is not party to the Astana talks, and we have declared our rejection of it since the beginning and of everything that comes out of it—and we renew that rejection now. This is our old and our new and independent position. Connecting the ceasefire to Astana is a mistake.”
In his statements during a press conference held in Idleb on Saturday, he said, “The enemy was not able to occupy the 20km it talked about through force of arms. So how could we give it peace? … We will not withdraw a single soldier or armament from any position. We will not position in a location according to desires of enemies or friends.”
The Astana 13 talks in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan closed with an agreement to implement deals for the “fourth de-escalation zone” and to “take tangible measures to prevent civilian casualties in the de-escalation zone in Idleb.”
In addition to guaranteeing the security of military personnel for the guarantor countries, the Syrian opposition delegation demanded that the Assad regime comply with the ceasefire, to which it announced its conditional assent, from Thursday/Friday night.
After the declaration of the ceasefire in Idleb, the Free Syrian Army factions represented in the National Front for Liberation, announced they would comply, adding that they would respond to any breach by Assad’s forces on the Hama countryside fronts.
Tahrir al-Sham announced its position to agree to the ceasefire in northern Syria in principle, saying that “we are aware of Russia and the Assad regime’s military campaign in the area and the exposure of the truth of the collapsing regime.”
Jolani said: “Whenever the Russians see this campaign failing they have called for a ceasefire. Every time we are victorious, the regime goes back to zero. Over the last few days, we agreed to comply with the September 2018 20km demilitarized zone between the regime and opposition, with the latter withdrawing its heavy weapons and then joint patrols between the Russians and Turks being conducted. In recent days, when this request was renewed and the regime declared its compliance with a ceasefire, we were able to consult with the groups that agreed to that.”
After the agreement in Sochi, Tahrir al-Sham expressed tacit agreement to it without clarifying its fundamental position. In particular, it did not object to the joint Turkish patrols in the demilitarized zone, which continue until now.
The ceasefire deal came after a military campaign by Assad’s forces that lasted more than 100 days, during which time it did not achieve any major advance at the expense of the rebel groups, as they met with major resistance, in particular in the northern Hama countryside and the northern Lattakia countryside.
The Asia and Africa section director in the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Mukash Sirikuli, said after the announcement of the ceasefire that, “the main portion of the Syrian opposition participating in the Astana talks has agreed to the ceasefire in Idleb.”
According to statements carried by the Russian Sputnik agency, he added that: “The participants declared a ceasefire and this decision went into effect, but there are other terrorist groups in the same place such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda who have not complied. But the main part of the opposition represented here agreed.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.