Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Insurgents Establish a “Buffer Zone”

 October 11, 2012 | Scott Lucas in EA Live, EA Middle East and Turkey, Middle East and Iran

0908 GMT: Syria. Amid an escalation in tensions, the Turkish Minister of Energy has said that the Assad regime halted purchases of electricity from Ankara a week ago.

Turkey had provided 20% of Syria’s power.

Meanwhile, Russia has demanded an explanation from Turkish authorities over Wednesday’s grounding and inspection of a Syrian civilian airplane, en route from Moscow to Damascus.

Moscow’s Foreign Ministry said that Turkish officials refused to grant its diplomatic staff access to 17 Russian citizens on the aircraft during the eight hours that the plane was held on suspicions that it was carrying military equipment.

The Ministry source said, “Neither weapons nor any kind of systems or parts for military equipment were on board or could have been on board.

Syria’s Minister of Transport said Turkey had committed “air piracy which contradicts civil aviation treaties”.

0528 GMT: Syria. Turkish authorities have allowed the departure of a Syrian plane, carrying about 30 passengers, after it was grounded for more than eight hours on Wednesday.

Claiming suspicions of military equipment on board, Turkey said it seized “objectionable cargo” after intercepting the A-320 Syrian Air plane in Turkish air space en route from Moscow to Damascus.

There is no confirmation of the objects in the cargo. Turkish media are speculating that they could be communications equipment and/or missile components.

0515 GMT: Syria. For months, insurgent forces and many civilians have called for a “protected zone”. The international community has debated and manoeuvred but, in the end, appears to have dithered.

Now the insurgents — probably aided by the Syrian military’s fear of Turkish artillery — may have reached the goal through the de facto control of territory. Reports on Wednesday indicated that the Free Syrian Army, after a series of advances in Idlib Province, had established a zone 15-20 kilometres (9-12.5 miles) deep from the Turkish border into Syria. The border of the zone is only five miles from the town of Jisr al Shughour, 15 to 20 miles from Kafranbel and Khan Shiekhoun, and possibly only 10 miles from the city Idlib.

The regime indirectly testified to the insurgent success, as it rejected a call by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon for a unilateral ceasefire and said the opposition must first halt. operations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, Syrian foreign ministry spokesperson, said that insurgents had “used the opportunity [of ceasefires] to expand their armed deployment and increase casualties due to terrorist activities”.

So we watch. Will regime forces try to break down the zone, either on the ground or from the air? If so, will Turkey — and possibly other international forces — break cover and display their backing of the insurgents? Alternatively, will the Free Syrian Army try to push the boundaries of control, taking the zone into a town or city?