Published: Tue, September 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Russia, Turkey agree to create demilitarized zone around Syria's Idlib

Russia, Turkey agree to create demilitarized zone around Syria's Idlib

"At the meeting, we discussed in detail this situation (in the Idlib governorate) and made a decision to establish a [9 to 15 mile]-wide demilitarized zone along the contact line between government troops and the armed opposition by October 15, 2018 and evacuate radical militants, including Jabhat al-Nusra (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia - TASS)", Putin said.

Over three million Syrians live in Idlib, including those who had left other Syrian areas with relative rebels to Idlib.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey September 13, 2018.

He recalled that in 2017 Turkey was visited by "a record number of Russians - 4.7 million people, and Russia came in first place in terms of the number of foreigners who visited Turkey".

Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime.

But there are pockets of Turkish-backed forces in Idlib within the main area of HTS control closer to the Turkish border.

Hmaidi Abdullah, another analyst, said under the deal, the Turkish side has a big responsibility to put the rebels on a leash in Idlib.

About 70 percent of Idlib province is controlled by various terrorist factions, including Al Qaeda's Syria affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front), according to the Russian military.

Turkey has 12 military posts inside Idlib province, and activists reported on Thursday that Turkish reinforcements crossed over into Syria to fortify the installations.

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The precise boundaries of the new zone were not spelled out by the two leaders at the summit, save that it will be along the current contact line between the rebels and the Syrian forces.

Ramadan also said the deal offers the regime and Russian Federation one of their main demands, which is securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links northern Syria with other cities.

Turkey however backs opposition fighters seeking the ouster of the Syrian leader.

The U.S. and global observers had feared the city would become the scene of a historic massacre as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies moved to crush the last major enclave of rebel forces.

Russian Federation had been preparing for an imminent attack on Idlib.

"We will prevent a humanitarian tragedy which could happen as a result of military action", Erdogan said after the talks.

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Idlib and surrounding areas were quiet Monday, a continuation of the calm that started less than a week ago amid Russia-Turkey talks. "But let's not create an excuse and take a step like bombing there". Turkey is backing some opposition groups. That was one of the regime's strategic aims in an offensive in Idlib.

"Assad and Russian Federation gave the choice to the global community: first we kill everybody. This will only create new hotbeds of terrorism and extremism", Erdogan wrote.

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