Why Did Russia Ask Turkey to Open Three Crossings in Northern Syria?

Russia has asked Turkey to open three commercial crossings in northern Syria hours after raiding a hospital in the Aleppo countryside, writes Baladi News. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry proposed that the Turkish side open three commercial crossings between the areas controlled by the Syrian regime and the opposition factions in Saraqib, Miznaz in the Idleb countryside, and Abu Zendin in the countryside of Aleppo, only hours after raids — that were the most violent since the ceasefire agreement — came into effect in Idleb on Mar. 5, 2020.

Russia launched air and ground raids, in cooperation with the Bashar al-Assad regime, on the al-Maghara Surgical Hospital in the city of al-Atareb in the western countryside of Aleppo, killing and wounding civilians — including children, women, and medical workers — in addition to rendering the hospital out of service, as well as targeting the gas plant and vital facilities near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which killed someone and wounded civilians on March 22.

The Syrian regime forces and their Russian ally continued their artillery and missile strikes amid an intense flight of Russian air force warplanes and reconnaissance in the vicinity of the town of Sarmada near the Syrian-Turkish border, north of the Idleb Governorate, the next day.

Turkish initiative to end the escalation

The Turkish government contacted the Russian government after the recent military escalation, calling for an immediate halt of military attacks on the region.

In turn, the Russian Defense Ministry said that an agreement had been reached with Turkey to open the Saraqib and Miznaz crossings in the Idleb countryside as well as the Abu Zendin crossing in the countryside of Aleppo.

The ministry added that the agreement with Turkey to open the crossings is a direct display of their commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.

In an exclusive statement to Baladi News, legal advisor, Khaled Shabib, said that, “most of the bombing has nothing to do with the opening of the crossings, but the Russians wanted to put pressure on Turkey in Idleb, so they bombed the hospital and other vital areas. In return, Turkey could put pressure on Russia in Ayn Issa. This means that the bombing will be reciprocated.”

Shabib explained that “the crossings will not be opened without an international Turkish-Russian agreement, and that Russia wants to open them for a number of reasons, namely to use the crossings towards electoral purposes by claiming it is used for humanitarian reasons, and to make a breakthrough in the north of Syria economically, politically, and in terms of security. Add to that bypassing the Caesar Act as the liberated regions are not subject to the Caesar Act, and Iranian and Russian goods pass through these areas.”

Why are crossings important for the Syrian regime?

The Syrian regime is the biggest beneficiary when it comes to the opening of crossings between its areas of control and the areas of control of the opposition factions. The economic deficit is evident in its areas of control, which was caused by the recent economic sanctions of the Caesar Act, which led to the cessation of trade exchange between the Syrian regime and other countries. The opening of the crossings is considered an emergency measure that might change the current economic situation in Syrian regime-held areas.

 

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.

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