Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Russia, Turkey agree to create buffer zone in Syria’s Idlib

Syrian engineers begin building underground hospitals Putin, Erdogan To Meet In Sochi For ‘Serious’ Talks On Syria’s Idlib
Leonard Rios | 18 September, 2018, 11:45

Russian and Turkish troops are to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib region from which "radical" rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

He said the zone will be patrolled both by Turkish forces and Russian military police.

Ahmed Ramadan, a spokesman for the Syrian political opposition in exile, said the agreement offered Russian Federation a chance to walk back its threat against Idlib and represented a success for diplomatic pressure from Turkey and the United States, which was also against an offensive. "The territory that is controlled by the Syrian army and opposition is to be demilitarized", he said.

Neither Putin not Erdogan explained how they planned to differentiate "radically-minded" rebels from other anti-Assad groups.

As part of solving the deadlock, all heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, will be withdrawn from the zone before October 10, Putin said. The rebels are to leave this area, which will be jointly patrolled by Turkey and Russian Federation, and are to withdraw all heavy weapons from the area.

Mr Erdogan said: "We will prevent a humanitarian tragedy which could happen as a result of military action".

Terrorists in Syria control not only the Idlib governorate, Erdogan said.

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Any diplomatic arrangement that postpones a full-scale onslaught against Idlib will be welcomed by the worldwide community.

Although the skies were quieter on Monday, as Putin held the talks with Erdogan, dozens of civilians are believed to have died in attacks on Idlib in recent weeks.

"I think the Russians and the regime know if they attempted a ground invasion there would be grave losses on their side", Talib Talib, a commander of a rebel division that receives support from Turkey, told NPR.

Territories occupied by the Syrian opposition must be demilitarized, Erdogan said at the press conference, adding that the opposition will remain there but Turkey and Russian Federation will make every effort to eliminate all radical groups from these territories. But averting an offensive for now may give breathing space for additional diplomatic moves.

Russian Federation and Turkey have agreed to create a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib province, thwarting a large-scale military operation and impending humanitarian disaster in the country's last rebel stronghold.

It was not immediately clear exactly how the deal would be implemented in the province, which is home to more than 3 million Syrians and an estimated 60,000 rebel fighters from various groups.

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