Russia, Turkey broker ceasefire in Syria's embattled Idlib
Iran Press TV
Thu Jun 13, 2019 05:02AM
Russia and Turkey have brokered a full ceasefire agreement in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib aimed at halting clashes between government forces and militants in the area, the last major bastion of foreign-backed terrorists in the Arab country.
The Russian military said in a statement that violence had dropped dramatically on Wednesday after the Moscow-initiated ceasefire applied to the Idlib de-escalation zone came into force.
"As a result, the number of attacks of illegal armed groups has significantly decreased...The Syrian government troops have not opened retaliatory fire [after two attacks in the nearby province of Hama], respecting the reached agreements," the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation said in the statement.
Major General Viktor Kupchishin, head of the Russian center, also said there was "a significant decline in the number of shots fired from the direction" of the militants, according to Interfax.
The Russian official said that on Wednesday there were only two episodes of shelling in Hama Province.
The Russian reports did not say how long the cease-fire would last.
Moscow, a Damascus ally, and Ankara, which backs a number of militant groups in Syria, signed an agreement last September to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib that would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and militants.
That agreement put on hold a Syrian government offensive to liberate Idlib, where between 10,000 and 15,000 militants are estimated to be holed up.
Militants have, however, persisted in their stay in the zone and refused to leave the area under the deal. Furthermore, terror outfits have repeatedly violated the truce by launching numerous attacks on outposts held by the Syrian army and Russian forces.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that "terrorists systematically stage provocations and attack the positions of the Syrian army and communities and also the Russian airbase Hmeimim with multiple rocket systems and drones," vowing a "crushing retaliation" to such acts of violence.
Moscow says it is Turkey's duty to rein in the armed groups that it supports and help separate them from the Takfiri terror outfits, which form a majority of the militant groups inside Idlib.
Russia and Turkey, along with Iran, are guarantors of a Syria-wide ceasefire. The trio has been mediating a diplomatic process between the Syrian government and armed groups since early 2017.
Idlib remains the only large area in the hands of anti-Damascus militants after government forces – backed by Iran and Russia – managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.
In recent weeks, Syrian armed forces have been conducting counter-terrorism operations in areas surrounding Idlib.
The Syrian army has warned civilians to leave Idlib amid preparations for a final military campaign to flush terrorists out of the region.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|