Nasr Hariri, the head of the opposition Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), has hailed Turkish efforts for maintaining the Sochi ceasefire deal on the northwestern Idlib province.
In exclusive statements to Anadolu Agency, Hariri said the Sochi deal has remained standing thanks to Turkey’s efforts.
After a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone -- in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited -- in Syria’s Idlib province.
According to the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing a resumption of fighting.
Hariri believes that the Sochi deal was an important tool for pressuring the regime and its allies.
"This deal prevented Russia, the regime and Iranians [militia] from fully capturing the Syrian soil by military force and moving away from reaching a political solution," he said.
“With Turkey’s support, the Sochi deal that protects the lives of civilians in Idlib remains
“While combating terrorist organizations in the region, Turkey also supports a political solution," he said.
Hariri said negotiations aiming to resolve the 8-year conflict in Syria have so far been fruitless.
"The failure to form a constitutional committee is because Russia is trying to eliminate the UN role,” according to the SNC leader.
"Russia, the Assad regime and allies are trying to undermine the UN role for reaching a political solution,” he said. “By agreeing to engage in dialogue is an attempt by them to cover up the crimes committed by the regime.”
Hariri said Russia has rejected the UN list of nominees, who would have worked with representatives of the regime and opposition to draft a new constitution in Syria.
The chief opposition negotiator said the Syrian opposition is seeking to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict under the UN umbrella.
Referring to U.S. envoy James Jeffrey's statements, in which he said it was time to "pull the plug" of Astana talks, Hariri said:
"Astana meetings are not an alternative to the Geneva talks, nobody said these meetings were an alternative to Geneva talks.”
“[The Syrian crisis] can't be resolved without an agreement between Russia and the U.S.," he said.
Hariri reiterated his support for the Turkish position on the YPG/PYD/PKK terrorist group.
"PYD is an armed militia group that attempts to achieve its goals through brutal force,” he said.
“They have committed numerous rights violations, massacres, tortures and forced migration of civilians,” he added.
Hariri said the Syrian opposition would not accept the presence of foreign powers that would pose a threat towards neighbors.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara.