Turkey, Russia to start joint patrols in northwest Syria

Turkey, Russia to start joint patrols in northwest Syria
Turkish and Russian troops will patrol a 'security corridor' along the key M4 highway in Idlib.
2 min read
14 March, 2020
Turkey negotiated a ceasefire with Russia after clashes killed dozens of its troops [AFP]
Turkish and Russian troops will begin jointly patrolling a key highway in northwest Syria on Sunday as part of a fragile truce brokered by the countries, Turkey's defense minister said on Friday.

Hulusi Akar made the announcement after Turkish and Russian officials ended four days of talks in Ankara over the technicalities of the ceasefire reached last week for Syria's war-ravaged Idlib province.

The ceasefire came after a series of deadly clashes between Ankara and the Moscow-backed Syrian regime

The new pact calls for the establishment of a security corridor along Syria's M4 highway, running east-west in Idlib, with joint patrols by Russian and Turkish troops.

Speaking to reporters, Akar said the Russian and Turkish delegations agreed to "set up joint coordination centers" for Idlib. The minister did not provide further details.

"Our hope is for the truce to rapidly become a permanent one," the minister said.

In rebel-held parts of Idlib, scores of people gathered in the town of Ariha on the M4 highway saying they reject patrols by Russian "occupiers" on the road, according to UK-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and el-Dorar al-Shamiya, an activist collective.

The observatory said the protesters are setting up tents on the highway to prevent the opening of the road that has been closed since 2012.

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Syria's Transportation Minister Ali Hammoud was quoted by state media as saying that parts of the highway under regime control have been cleared for the reopening by removing blocks and barriers. He added that the highway is very important for business as it is a considered a main link between neighboring Iraq and the Mediterranean through Syria. 

The truce halted the Syrian regime's ground campaign against rebel and extremist factions in the province, as well as brutal aerial bombardment by Damascus and Moscow that killed hundreds and sent a million people fleeing toward the Turkish border.

The ceasefire deal also appeared to achieve Moscow's key goal of allowing the Syrian government to keep hold of the strategic north-south highway known as the M5.

While the pact produced initial hopes of an end to the fighting, analysts are yet uncertain as to whether it will hold. Previous negotiations by Moscow and Ankara over the country's last opposition bastion have failed to halt the fighting long-term.

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