Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Erdogan, Putin announce Idlib ceasefire after Moscow meeting have announced a military ceasefire in Idlib, after a gathering in Moscow that lasted six hours.
Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, has witnessed increased violence and bloodshed since last December, the beginning of a Russia-backed Syrian offensive to regain control over the region.
Erdogan threatens ‘imminent’ Turkish operation in Syria
“At 00.01 tonight, as in, from midnight, the ceasefire are going to be put in situ,” Erdogan told reporters on Thursday within the Moscow.
Erdogan added that Turkey, which has sent thousands of troops into Idlib to repel the Syrian army, wouldn’t “remain silent” if Syrian government forces continued attacks and warned that Ankara would retaliate with full force.
Putin said Russia didn’t always consider its Turkish partners but hoped the deal will function a “good basis for ending the fighting within the Idlib de-escalation zone, put an end to [the] suffering of [the] civilian population and contain a growing humanitarian crisis.”
Even as the ceasefire came into effect, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu wire service reported too soon Friday that Turkish forces killed 21 Syrian troops and destroyed two artillery pieces and two missile launchers, in retaliation of the killing of two Turkish soldiers in Idlib earlier on Thursday.
Since last December, quite 300 civilians, including a minimum of 100 children, are killed in Idlib.
Nearly a meg people are internally displaced to the border with Turkey, most of them forced to dwell within the open – the worst humanitarian crisis in Syria’s nine-year-old warfare, consistent with the international organisation.
Erdogan on Thursday said the 2 leaders agreed to assist these refugees return to their homes.
Turkey and Russia on Thursday also agreed to ascertain a secure corridor along a key east-west highway in Syria’s Idlib and hold joint patrols on that as of March 15.
In a joint statement read out by the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers, the 2 sides said the secure corridor would stretch 6km (3.7 miles) to the north and 6km to the south of the M4 highway.
They said their defence ministers would agree on the parameters of the corridor within per week.
Until the most recent crisis, Putin and Erdogan had managed to coordinate their interests in Syria while Moscow backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Ankara supported the opposition forces.
Earlier on Thursday, al-Assad accused Turkey’s president of “supporting terrorists”.
“Erdogan is unable to inform the Turks why he’s sending his army to fight in Syria and why his soldiers are being killed there because the difficulty has nothing to try and do with Turkish interests but together with his Muslim Brotherhood ideology,” he told the state-owned Russia 24 channel.
The Idlib crisis marks the primary time Ankara has launched an on the spot offensive against al-Assad’s forces.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Hatay on the Turkish-Syrian border, said Erdogan managed to urge some “huge concessions” within the talks with Putin.
“I think this can be visiting be seen as an enormous victory for Erdogan,” Ahelbarra said. They got the ceasefire plus the safe corridors and also resettlement of the civilians into their areas.
“Erdogan won’t should be anxious about his soldiers. Also, Turkey has been very concerned a couple of protracted conflict in Idlib that will pave the way for four million civilians to cross into Turkey. i believe now those are a number of the people who are going to be able to return to their villages.”
After dozens of his troops were killed in Syria, Erdogan has threatened Europe with a fresh migratory crisis by allowing refugees to travel on to Europe from Turkey, which he said can not handle new waves of individuals fleeing war-torn Syria.
On Thursday, Putin offered his condolences to Erdogan over Turkish losses in an exceedingly Syrian foray but noted there have been also deaths among Syrian forces.
The two Turkish soldiers who were killed in an attack in Idlib on Thursday raised the amount of Turkish soldiers killed since the start of February to 60.
After Turkey downed several Syrian jets, Moscow warned Ankara its aircraft would be unsafe if they enter Syrian airspace – a veiled threat to interact Russian military assets in Syria.
Fighting continued on Thursday in Idlib during the talks in Russia. Opposition activists there blamed Russian aircraft for an attack on a rebel-held village, which they said killed a minimum of 15 people, including children, and wounded several others.
The Russian military had no immediate touch upon the claim, but it’s staunchly denied similar previous claims, insisting it’s not singled out residential areas.
‘Ceasefire agreed is extremely shaky’
Despite Thursday’s breakthrough, hopes for peace among some Syrians remain low.
Raja Androon, a 65-year-old Syrian from Idlib whose two sons were killed by Syrian government forces, now lives in Antakya in southern Turkey.
“The talks may end in less fighting, but I’m not holding my breath for the Syrian regime to urge out of Idlib,” she told Al Jazeera. “I hope Idlib will come under autonomous rule, and not represent Assad’s control.”
Mustafa Sejari, an analyst and member of the Syrian opposition Mutasim Brigades, was also sceptical, saying that Erdogan and Putin were trying to avoid wasting face regarding their interests on the bottom, “and nothing more”.
He told the Al Jazeera wire service that, “The regime won’t withdraw from Idlib … The ceasefire approved may be a very shaky one, and from the primary violation of it the battles will resume yet again.
“According to the news conference, safe passage are going to be allowed for the displaced civilians to return to their homes. However, where will they return to if the Syrian regime forces are still on the ground? Previous examples have shown that opening a humanitarian corridor to permit aid through won’t stop Russia from continuing to bomb civilians.”
According to the volunteer organisation White Helmets, 612 Syrian civilians are killed by government forces and their allies since the start of this year.
Alexey Khlebnikov, geographic area expert at the Russian world affairs Council, told Al Jazeera: “I think it’s pretty obvious that Russia got what it wanted … in fact it won’t guarantee that no violations will occur, but judging by previous deals, this may be more sustainable.
“Both cannot afford an on the spot confrontation anyway, they’ve spent years building a relationship. For Turkey, the buffer zone near their border is that the most crucial: they do not want Syrian forces to travel further north. the matter during this deal is that Ankara stands alone within the effort – or not – to resolve the matter of ‘terrorists’ in Idlib province. But the pressure on Erdogan is mounting, and that i think they’ll should accept to try and do something about it.”
Anton Mardasov, a Moscow-based geographic area analyst, said: “The Kremlin maintains the established order in Idlib and pressures Turkey to restructure the opposition … and can control the roads.
“Some points remain unclear, though. in essence, Assad isn’t alleged to interfere, but we’ll see how that goes.”