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Syria Today – Protests in Aleppo Countryside; Turkey and Syria Move Toward Economic Normalization

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Protests in Aleppo Countryside; Turkey and Syria Move Toward Economic Normalization

Residents of the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria protested against the opposition Syrian National Coalition and demanded its dissolution due to its “weak role” in defending the Syrian refugees in Turkey, North Press reported.

The residents took to the streets in Azaz city in Aleppo’s northern countryside and called for an end for the Turkish human rights violations against the Syrian refugees.

They said they need to know the future of their areas in light of any rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara.

The protesters expressed their concern as Turkey may use the Syrian refugees issue to achieve its goals and interests in reconciling with the Syrian government.

The protesters demanded the opening of an investigation into the shootings that took place and led to casualties.

Starting with Abu al-Zandeen crossing, Syrian regime and Turkey move toward economic normalization

Enab Baladi published a featured article on the reopening of the Abu al-Zandeen crossing, connecting areas controlled by the Syrian National Army and the Syrian regime, which is seen as a politically motivated move facilitated by Turkey and Russia, raising questions about its economic benefits and broader implications for Syrian-Turkish relations.

In late June, the local council of al-Bab in eastern Aleppo announced the reopening of the Abu al-Zandeen crossing, which connects areas controlled by the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Syrian regime. This move, largely seen as politically motivated, is part of preliminary understandings between Turkey and the Syrian regime under Russian sponsorship. The crossing links al-Bab in the opposition-controlled Euphrates Shield area to eastern Aleppo, and its reopening raises questions about the economic benefits for northern Syria.

The story covered the following points:

  1. Political Over Economic Benefits: The crossing’s reopening is deemed more politically significant than economically beneficial. Although trade existed previously through smuggling, it will now be legitimate.
  2. Limited Economic Impact: The crossing’s reopening has minimal economic impact, as major trade for opposition areas is with Turkey. The regime gains little unless the crossing facilitates oil transport from Autonomous Administration areas, which is unlikely.
  3. Agricultural and Humanitarian Benefits: Farmers on both sides may benefit from exporting surplus produce, and civilian passage could help Syrian families communicate.
  4. Risks and Protests: Economic and security risks are concerns for areas controlled by the SNA. There have been local demands to hand over the crossing to civilian authorities to avoid protests.
  5. Turkey’s Strategic Advantage: Turkey stands to benefit most, as the crossing facilitates Turkish truck passage to Jordan and the Gulf, boosting exports.
  6. Long-term Uncertainties: There is skepticism about long-term economic revival, especially if military factions manage the crossing. Additionally, concerns about increased drug trafficking and resource exploitation by the regime persist.
  7. Normalization Efforts: Since December 2022, Turkey has softened its stance towards the Syrian regime, with Russia and Iran mediating negotiations. Economic normalization between Turkey and Syria is seen as a priority, with goals to reopen land border crossings, increase trade, and partake in Syria’s reconstruction, despite potential obstacles like Western sanctions.

The reopening of the Abu al-Zandeen crossing marks a significant step in the broader context of Syrian-Turkish negotiations, reflecting the complex interplay of political, economic, and security dynamics in the region.

Ilham Ehmed, Syrian Kurdish Leader, Calls for Comprehensive Solution to End Conflict

Ilham Ehmed, Co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department in the Kurdish-led AANES, argues that a solution to the Syrian conflict is possible only if it encompasses the entire country.

The statement comes in response to recent diplomatic overtures between Turkey and Syria. Last week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signalled a major shift in policy, saying, “There is no reason not to establish relations with Syria.” This marked a significant departure from Turkey’s previous confrontational stance since breaking ties with Syria in 2011. 

Turkey had backed various opposition groups against President Bashar al-Assad and conducted cross-border military operations, leading to the occupation of areas previously populated by Kurds. The AANES has warned against reconciliation, describing it as a “major conspiracy” potentially legitimising Turkish occupation.

“Turkey’s withdrawal from Syrian territories should be the primary condition for any agreement,” Ehmed stated on Monday in an interview with ANF. She highlighted that both the Turkish and the Syrian governments have lacked independence in decision-making since the Syrian issue became an international problem.

Ehmed emphasized the importance of prioritising the security and interests of the Syrian people. “Agreements made outside of this framework will benefit not only the people of North and East Syria but all Syrians,” she explained.

The Kurdish official pointed out the roles of Russia and Iraq in the negotiation efforts between Turkey and Syria. She criticised Turkey’s intervention in Syria, stating, “The Turkish state interfered with the Syrian file through various methods in the early stages of the Syrian crisis.”

Ehmed warned against reverting to old relationships that disregarded people’s rights. “If their mentality is to return to the past, there are certainly many dangers,” she said, adding that the old relationships were based on ignoring the rights of the people.

Syrian Mercenaries Deployed to Niger

Military Africa published a report on Syrian mercenaries in Niger, in which it suggested that approximately 1,100 militants from the Syrian National Army, recruited by Turkish intelligence, have been deployed to Niger since September of last year.

These mercenaries receive a monthly salary of $1,500, with additional compensation for the wounded and families of the deceased.

The report says that the primary motivation for these fighters is financial gain due to the lack of job opportunities in northern Syria.

The mercenaries are stationed in the Liptako-Gourma region, plagued by terrorism from al-Qaida and Islamic State affiliates since 2012.

Their official role is to guard mines, oil installations, and military bases, but they have also engaged in fighting against jihadist groups, resulting in casualties.

Turkey’s involvement in Niger is part of a broader strategy to expand its influence in Africa for commercial and military interests.

Erdogan’s efforts to normalize relations with Assad spark concerns among Syrian rebels: Turkish Analyst

In a recent video interview with News.Az, Selcuk Colakoglu, the founding director of the Turkish Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, shed light on the ongoing complexities within Syria since the outbreak of the Civil War.

Colakoglu emphasized that Syria has become increasingly decentralized, with multiple foreign forces deeply involved in the conflict. “Russia and Iran have actively supported the Assad regime in Damascus,” he noted. In contrast, the United States has backed Kurdish forces, mainly the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Northeast Syria. Turkey, on the other hand, has been a staunch supporter of former Free Syrian Army elements in Northern Syria, particularly in regions like Afrin, Azez, Tal Abyad, and Ras al-Ayn.

As a result, Colakoglu highlighted, different regions of Syria are controlled by various groups and countries, making it impossible to view Syria as a unified nation since the Civil War began.

“Initially, Turkey supported the Syrian opposition, namely the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Front,” Colakoglu explained. However, these groups have undergone significant changes and have lost control over many parts of Syria, being pushed into pockets in Northern Syria, including Idlib and Turkish-controlled areas of Afrin, Azez, Tal Abyad, and Ras al-Ayn. These groups continue to receive financial and military support from Turkey, maintaining relatively good relations with the Turkish government.

Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled a shift towards normalizing relations with Syria, specifically with the Assad government, mirroring the friendly relations that existed before 2011. This change has sparked discontent among some elements of the Syrian resistance forces in Turkish-controlled areas. Nevertheless, Colakoglu pointed out that Turkey has managed to keep these reactions under control.

“The normalization process between Turkey and Syria will not be easy,” Colakoglu warned. The Civil War has devastated many institutions, and the Syrian opposition fears abandonment by Turkey in favor of re-establishing relations with Syria. Therefore, Colakoglu stressed, the Turkish government needs to reassure these Syrian resistance groups that Ankara will not forsake them for the sake of normalization with Syria.

Syria’s 2024 Legislative Elections

International Idea published a report on the upcoming Syrian legislative elections and the structure of the People’s Assembly. 

On July 15, the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad will conduct elections for the 250-seat Syrian People’s Assembly. These elections will take place in areas under regime control, which covers roughly 70% of Syrian territory. Despite the Ba’ath Party’s dominant role and the Assembly’s lack of legislative power, the election process offers insights into the regime’s functioning.

The report reminds us that Syria is still divided after 13 years of civil war, although a 2020 ceasefire in Idlib has reduced fighting. The Assad regime, backed by Russia, controls large parts of Syria, but significant areas remain under opposition control, including Kurdish-led SDF in the northeast, Turkish-backed SNA along the Turkish border, and Islamist HTS in northwest Idlib.

The Assad regime has regularly held elections despite criticism of their credibility, with previous voter turnout significantly low.

Electoral Dynamics:

– The 2012 constitution introduced a nominal multi-party system, but the power dynamics remain unchanged. The National Progressive Front (NPF), led by the Ba’ath Party, is expected to secure around 183 seats out of 250, with the Ba’ath Party taking 166 seats.

– Candidate registration is tightly controlled, ensuring loyalty to the regime. This year, 9,194 candidates were approved out of 12,000 registrants, vetted by intelligence and the Higher Judicial Committee for Elections (HJCE).

Worker and Farmer Quota:

– The Assembly reserves 127 seats for workers and farmers, reflecting the Ba’ath Party’s socialist origins. However, these terms are loosely defined, and the seats often go to regime allies.

Electoral Districts:

– The number of seats per district is based on the administrative division of Syria’s 14 governorates, with discrepancies in seat allocation favouring regime strongholds like Latakia over opposition-associated regions like Daraa.


– The People’s Assembly lacks real authority and functions under executive control. Syrians abroad, including over 5 million refugees, face barriers to voting or running for office.

– Despite their lack of credibility, these elections demonstrate the regime’s methods of consolidating power and managing its support base.

– One key task for the new parliament will be constitutional reforms necessary for Bashar al-Assad to remain in power beyond 2028, requiring significant parliamentary approval.

The report concludes that the upcoming elections highlight the Syrian regime’s strategic consolidation of power and the mechanisms through which it maintains control amidst a complex and divided political landscape.

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