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Russia’s Putin praised Turkey for helping stabilize Idlib and emphasized Wednesday that more joint efforts were needed to combat militants in the province.
Some experts like Manhal Parish, an Istanbul-based Syrian journalist and researcher with knowledge of developments in the region, charge that the Sochi agreement covers more than HTS and militants.
“The Russians are more interested in regaining the two international roads and operating them — the M5 highway between Aleppo and Jordan and M4 between Aleppo and Lattakia,” Parish told VOA. Joseph Dunford said last year that a large-scale military operation to recapture the province could kill many civilians as well as soldiers. special envoy for Syria, said there were many foreign fighters among the militants in Idlib who could use chlorine gas as a weapon and make a military operation horrific.
Last week, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaida-affiliated group, was able to take over large swaths of land in Idlib by pushing a rival rebel group, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, out of the area.
Fighting between the two groups lasted several days before a deal was reached, forcing the Zenki Movement, operating under the umbrella of the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL), to dismantle itself and transfer hundreds of its fighters to the Afrin region where the NFL is based.
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Putin welcomed the result as a vote of confidence, but told government officials in a televised meeting Monday night that they must "listen to political forces, including those that did not enter parliament."In the meeting, which was recorded by the Kremlin, Putin praised United Russia's election result as "good" but said it would not eliminate external opinion from the party's mindset, noting that officials should listen to other movements on domestic policy."We must and will develop our country's multi-party system and support civil society, including patriotically-inclined non-governmental organizations," Putin said, not naming any specific organizations he was referring to.