Russia politics: Quick View - Russia establishes truce in Homs
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- Economist Intelligence Unit
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In early August Russia implemented a truce in the rural areas of the north of Homs governorate, Syria, in the latest of a series of efforts to reduce the violence in co-operation with non-jihadi elements of the opposition.
The truce agreement applies to a pocket of territory held by rebel groups between the cities of Homs and Hama. According to Russian officials, the area comprises 84 communities and has a population of 147,000. Local councils can continue to run day-to-day affairs, and rebel military groups are not required to hand over weapons. Russia has deployed military police to monitor the truce, and aid convoys are guaranteed access. However, one of the conditions-and possibly one that ultimately undermines the agreement-is that all elements of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group linked to al-Qaida, be expelled from the area within one month.
The leader of the negotiations on the opposition side was Ahmed Jarba, a former head of the Syrian opposition coalition. Mr Jarba now operates through Tayar al-Ghad, a political formation supported by Egypt and the UAE. Earlier in July he was involved in brokering a similar deal in Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, the capital. However, despite Mr Jarba's influential status, his involvement could prove detrimental to the process; armed opposition groups in the Homs countryside have already expressed reservations about the truce and about Mr Jarba's role. As a result, although most rebel groups in the area support the agreement, rebel divisions and conditions surrounding HTS make it likely that it will break down at some point.
Meanwhile, further north, in Idlib, the US has indicated that it would support outside military intervention to challenge the dominance of HTS. The warning came in the form of a statement released in Arabic by Michael Ratney, the State Department's regional envoy for Syria, in which he said that the US "would find it hard to convince international parties not to take necessary measures"-a clear reference to a possible Russian-backed offensive in the area. Following the recent successful campaign by HTS in Idlib, in which it seized territory and equipment from other groups, it now seems likely that such a Russian-backed offensive will take place.
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