Just a reminder: Al-Qaida has appeared in Syria for the first time under the name "Jabhat al-Nusra". In 2015, additional organizations were added to the structure and the name was changed to "Fateh al-Sham". On January 28th, 2017, more small groups were added and the name "Hayat Tahrir al-Sham" (HTS) was adopted.
Over the past weeks, the Turkish state has held talks with the "Hayat Tahrir al-Sham" (HTS) group, led by al-Nusra. These talks took place at a time when relations between the Sochi guarantors Russia and Turkey are extremely tense because of the situation in Idlib.
The meetings were attended by officials of the Turkish secret service MIT, the HTS and the heads of jihadists of the so-called "Free Syrian Army" (FSA). Discussions were held on dissolving the HTS and integrating its members into the "FSA" under the name of something like a "4th Corps"...
The Turkish state was thus planning to take the argument of “fight against terrorism” away from Russia and give the impression that the obligation from the Sochi agreement to divide the jihadists in Idlib into "radicals" and "moderates" would be fulfilled.
According to the Turkish proposal, HTS commander Abu Mohammad al-Julani (real name Ahmed Hussein al-Shar’a), as well as other council members and high-ranking emirs were to go to Afrin to remain there under the protection of Turkey.
After the two-day talks, al-Qaida and HTS rejected this proposal. HTS issued a statement that it would not disband and would continue on its way. According to the HTS statement, "our doors are open to new recruits"
A source from the HTS camp said: "HTS has already changed its name several times. The fact that it is not dissolving this time and is not adopting a different name is due to the distrust of Turkey. ISIS leader Baghdadi has been killed while under the protection of Turkey. It would be foolish for al-Julani and his team to trust in the protection of the Turkish state. Al-Qaida has already accused the Al-Nusra front, i.e. the HTS, in earlier statements of relying too much on Turkey"
Immediately before the HTS declaration, armed groups controlled by Turkey withdrew from areas in western Aleppo, leaving the HTS forces to confront the advancing Syrian government forces alone. The Turkish state is said to be behind the withdrawal without a fight from this area, known as the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Syrian army, with Iranian and Russian support, has been advancing into this area since the beginning of February. The so-called "FSA", which is controlled by Turkey, has sent reinforcements to "Hayat Tahrir al-Sham" (HTS). After HTS refused to disband itself, the "FSA" groups deployed to the region were withdrawn on Turkish orders.
It is conspicuous that the steps against the HTS were taken after the statements of Turkish politicians. For example, the Turkish Minister of Defence, Hulusi Akar, has vowed measures against all groups that do not abide by the ceasefire. Also, President Erdogan had made similar statements.