Syria opposition rejects Russia presence in planned buffer zone

A key opposition alliance in Syria's Idlib province has said it is opposed to the deployment of Russian forces in a demilitarised zone to be set up under a Turkey-Russia deal, AFP reported Monday (October 1st).

The deal agreed last month provides for the establishment of a U-shaped buffer zone around Idlib that would be free of both extremists and heavy weapons.

The buffer would be patrolled by Turkish troops and Russian military police.

The National Liberation Front, a powerful Turkish-backed opposition alliance in Idlib, cautiously welcomed the deal but has since raised objections.

"A long meeting was held with our Turkish ally regarding the elements of the agreement, and chiefly the issue of Russia's presence in the buffer area," NLF spokesman Naji Mustafa said late Sunday.

"We discussed the issue, and the NLF took a clear position rejecting this matter," he said, adding that Turkey "pledged that it would not happen".

The accord over Idlib was reached September 17th by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under the agreement, all factions in the planned buffer area must hand over their heavy weapons by October 10th and radical groups must withdraw by October 15th.

Idlib lies on the border with Turkey and is held by a complex array of rival opposition and extremist factions, which observers expect will complicate the buffer zone's creation.

Most of the territory where the buffer would be set up is held by Tahrir al-Sham and other hardliners. Hurras al-Din, a smaller al-Qaeda-linked group, has rejected the agreement.

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