Details of Turkey-Russia ceasefire in Idlib 'finalised' in crucial Ankara talks

Details of Turkey-Russia ceasefire in Idlib 'finalised' in crucial Ankara talks
Turkey's defence minister said that an ''agreement was reached to a large extent' between the two sides during talks in Ankara, describing them as ''positive and constructive'.
2 min read
12 March, 2020
Akar, echoing Erdogan, stressed that Turkey was ready to retaliate violations of the ceasefire [Getty]
Details of a joint Russian-Turkish ceasefire in Syria's war-torn Idlib are close to being finalised in talks between the conflict's principal power brokers, Turkish state media reported Thursday.

Escalating clashes in Syria's last rebel stronghold brought Russia and Turkey close to direct confrontation amid a Moscow-backed Syrian regime offensive that has displaced almost a million people.

Ankara's defence minister Hulusi Akar said that an ''agreement was reached to a large extent'' between the two sides, describing talks as ''positive and constructive''.

Yet Akar stressed that Turkey was ready to retaliate if the ceasefire was violated.

His comments echo warnings issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on Wednesday tasked Russia with taking punitive measures against ''small violations'' of the week-long ceasefire by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

''In the face of the smallest attack [on our posts], we will not only retaliate, but we will respond much more heavily,'' Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

Read more: Syria Weekly: Idlib at peace for now, after Russia-Turkey truce

Under a 2018 deal with Russia, which aimed at stemming an assault by Assad's forces, Turkey currently maintains 12 posts in Syria's last opposition stronghold.

Erdogan last week agreed to the ceasefire with his Russian counterpart, after weeks of Turkish strikes and rebel counterattacks on regime positions, which have reportedly killed 2,400 soldiers and 1,900 Iran-linked militia fighters.

A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara this week to discuss its formative details, which include a security corridor and joint patrols along the key M4 highway.

The patrols will take place between the settlement of Trumba, two kilometres (one mile) to the west of Saraqib, currently in regime hands, and the settlement of Ain al-Havr, as stipulated by the deal, Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported.

While the Syrian regime and its allies have broken the terms of previous ceasefires, vice-president of the Syrian National Coalition Dima Moussa told the The New Arab he hopes the new deal can signal longer-term peace for Idlib.

Read more: Erdogan demands solidarity, support from NATO in Syria conflict 

"While there is divergence in interests in Idlib between Turkey and Russia, the fact that an agreement was reached indicates that there is some convergence, and this can be the basis for holding and abiding by the agreement," Moussa said.

Damascus, backed by Iranian forces and Russian air power, has been fighting to retake Idlib since December, pushing almost a million civilians northwards towards the Turkish border.

Turkey, which is already host to some four million refugees, has called on the country's western partners for support in dealing with the crisis.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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