Putin, Erdogan to discuss Syria amid Russia-Turkey discord over Idlib

Glen Norman
September 18, 2018

Erdogan was due to hold talks in Russian Federation later on Monday with President Vladimir Putin, whose military support for the Syrian government has helped reverse years of rebel gains and who publicly rebuffed Turkey's ceasefire call 10 days ago.

Russian and Turkish troops are to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Idlib from which radical rebels will be required to withdraw, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

Erdogan said both his country and Russian Federation would carry out coordinated patrols in the de-militarised zone, and reiterated that the biggest threat to Turkey was the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), who control swathes of territory in northeast Syria.

The Russian president also said that the sides agreed to "resume transit traffic along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama highways by the end of 2018, also at the initiative of the Turkish side".

Earlier it was reported that the presidents of Turkey and Russian Federation will discuss in Sochi the crisis in the Syrian Idlib.

The United Nations has warned an offensive in the province could spark this century's worst humanitarian disaster.

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". However, Erdogan's call for a cease-fire in Idlib, which borders Turkey, was accepted neither by Russian Federation nor Iran at the tripartite summit in Tehran on September 7.

The HTS spokesman in Idlib said now was not the time to talk about dissolving into Turkish-backed rebel groups.

"As we have noted before, an offensive by the Assad regime and its allies against the densely populated Idlib province would be a reckless escalation and would have serious consequences for Syria and the surrounding region", the official added.

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. Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has helped quell the rebellion. The Syrian government and armed opposition groups must respect deal, not provoke bloodshed and allow humanitarian access.

Maher Ihsan, another analyst, said that the deal averted Idlib a wide-scale offensive and ensured that the rebels would not dare to attack Syrian military sites.

Idlib had become the opposition's melting pot. That made Idlib the rebel holdout.

Wissam Zarqa, a university teacher in Idlib, said demonstrators were flying the tri-color flag to rebut the regime line that Idlib is dominated by the al-Qaida linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group.

There are other Islamists and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner.

Instead, U.S. forces will remain to push back against Iran in Syria, the State Department's new Syria envoy, James Jeffrey, said this month.

Syria's northwestern province of Idlib is the final rebel-held enclave in Syria, wracked by a seven-year war that has killed a half million people and displaced more than half of the country's population.

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