Russia, Turkey say they'll patrol demilitarized zone in Syrian city of Idlib


Russia and Turkey have agreed to create a "demilitarised zone" around Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after lengthy talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands during a news conference following their talks in Sochi, Russia, September 17, 2018.

The Russian president said the 15-20km (9.3-12.4 miles) wide safe zone will be created in the northwest Syrian province by 15 October.

Turkey has called for measures to target hardline militants in Idlib while protecting civilians and avoiding an indiscriminate assault, likely backed by Russian air power, which it says would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

This would entail a "withdrawal of all radical fighters" from Idlib including the al-Nusra Front, Putin said. Parts of it are held by Turkey-backed rebels but numerous towns are controlled by jihadist fighters such as Tahrir al-Sham, which includes insurgents from the former al Qaeda branch in Syria. It was also not immediately clear how much of the city of Idlib fell within the zone.

Turkey, which supplies the province with aid and keeps hundreds of its soldiers in the province, has said a full-scale assault on Idlib would send as many as 2 million refugees across its southern border, as well as jihadis who could then move on to Europe.

Asked whether Syrian President Bashar Assad's government agreed with the Putin-Erdogan plan, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters in Sochi that "in the coming hours, we will agree with them on all the positions put forth in this document".

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"Russia will surely take necessary precautions to ensure the Idlib de-escalation zone is not attacked".

"The Turkish and United States serious pressures were the reason behind Russian Federation abstaining from the offensive and offering an air cover which means Iran alone won't be able to carry out the offensive with the overstretched forces of the Assad regime".

The defense ministries of Russian Federation and Turkey signed a memorandum on Monday on the stabilization of the situation in the zone of de-escalation in Syria's Idlib.

Although Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will not be present, Ghasemi said Tehran is continuing discussions with both countries as well as Damascus.

Syria's northwestern province of Idlib is the final rebel-held enclave in Syria, wracked by a seven-year war that has killed a half million people and displaced more than half of the country's population.

Turkish military analyst Metin Gurcan said the lack of an agreement with Ankara could push Moscow and the Syrian regime to stage an operation that will last "months" rather than a full-fledged attack.

Asked about Trump's tweet, Peskov said such warnings do not consider "the risky and negative potential" of the rebel-held enclave and show that the White House does not have a "comprehensive approach" to solving the Syria crisis.