Erdogan and Putin agree to a Syria DMZ

Aaref WATAD

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Russian Federation and Turkey appeared Monday to avert a potential crisis in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, announcing they would establish a "demilitarized zone" to separate rebels from Syrian government troops and head off an all-out battle.

"In line with our policy of fighting terrorism and reclaiming Syria's territorial integrity, we are highly determined to solve the Idlib issue so that the people are not harmed", he added.

The zone, he said, would be between 15 and 25 kilometres wide and would be patrolled by mobile units of Turkish and Russian troops.

And by the end of the year transportation routes between Latakia and Aleppo, and Latakia and Hama must be restored, he said.

Both Erdogan and Putin hailed Monday's agreement as a major breakthrough.

Russia, the main military backer of the Syrian government, has so far agreed with rebel-sympathetic Turkey that groups recognized as terrorist organizations are not included in ceasefire efforts.

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The United Nations and non-governmental organisations have repeatedly warned that such an offensive would unleash a "bloodbath" and "humanitarian catastrophe" in Idlib.

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".

Putin made the announcement Monday after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Bombardment has slowed over the past week, and on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Syrian troops were planning a major offensive on Idlib.

There were widespread fears that Mr. Assad, assisted by a Russian-led air campaign, could employ chemical weapons as part of his ground assault.

They were sent over the border Sunday and included tanks and other hardware, with a convoy of 50 military vehicles, according to the Hurriyet daily. Experts saw this as a move by Erdogan to exert pressure on Russian Federation and the Syrian regime, by creating a reminder that these rebel factions could move once more on cities such as Aleppo that have already been recaptured by the Syrian regime.

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"Hope at long last for 3 million Syrian civilians in Idleb [sic]: Russian Federation and Turkey agree on plan that may avert horrific war among displaced people", Egeland wrote on Twitter.

Why Idlib has become importantWho controls idlib?

Activists had said that the Nusra Front, otherwise known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for the Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), rounded up and killed tens of the reconciliation advocates in Idlib.

Erdoğan said Syrian Kurdish fighters in the YPG east of the Euphrates river posed the biggest threat for Syria's future.

U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the talk would have a "positive" impact on civilians in Syria's northwestern Idlib province since they are at "great risk".

Why it matters to Assad, Russia?

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