The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that there has been no clear indication of a retreat by militant groups from the weapons-free zone after the Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey, adding that 70% of the demilitarized region is still under the occupation of militants.
It said that Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham and the Coastal Regiments 1 and 2, affiliated to the National Liberation Front (NFL), have not retreated from Northern and Northeastern Lattakia, noting that they have only concealed their heavy weapons in tunnels.
NFL’s spokesman had on Saturday claimed that the process to transfer heavy weapons from the demilitarized zone in Northern Syria has started.
The SOHR also reported on Saturday that the militants had not withdrawn from the demilitarized zone in Northern Syria agreed by Turkey and Russia under the Sochi Agreement, adding that they were even reinforcing their positions in the region.
It that the militant groups, including the Turkey-backed NFL, had not retreated from the weapons-free zone at the administrative borders of Idlib, Hama, Lattakia and Aleppo provinces.
The SOHR, meantime, added that the militant groups have, instead, strengthened their positions and strongholds in the demilitarized zone, specially areas in Northern Lattakia.
Syrian sources said on Thursday that Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorist group and the Turkish army disagree on the implementation of the Sochi agreement between Moscow and Ankara, adding that the militants seek control over key passageways in the demilitarized zone.
The Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper quoted sources close to the militants as saying that Tahrir al-Sham has demanded control over certain crossroads on M5 highway which links Aleppo to Hama and M4 highway that links Aleppo to Lattakia.
They added that the Turkish intelligence body has opposed the demand, specially about the passageways located between the Syrian army-controlled areas and those occupied by the terrorists in Idlib, Western Aleppo and Sahl al-Qab in Northwestern Hama, adding that Turkey wants to deliver their control to the National Liberation Front militants who are supported by Turkey.
The report said if Tahrir al-Sham and Ankara come into terms with each other over this issue, the terrorist group will soon start withdrawal from demilitarized zone.
Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group is attempting to maintain its positions in Syria, it said.