Turkey, Russia discuss ways to preserve cease-fire in Syria's Idlib

  17 June 2019    Read: 1107
Turkey, Russia discuss ways to preserve cease-fire in Syria

National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu held phone call Monday evening to discuss measures to be taken in Syria a week after a cease-fire in Idlib fell through over the Assad regime's attack on a Turkish observation point in the province.

Russian news agencies, citing the Russian military, reported last week that Ankara and Moscow had brokered a complete cease-fire in Idlib between the Syrian regime and opposition forces, which had been applied to the Idlib de-escalation zone and led to a significant reduction in violence. Yet, the Assad regime's mortar attack came mere hours later, wounding three soldiers. The observation point located near Mount Zawiyah was targeted by 35 mortar rounds fired from the regime-controlled As Shariah region some 3 kilometers away.

In the phone call, Akar and Shoigu exchanged views on steps be taken to preserve the cease-fire and peace and ensure stability in the region, underscoring the importance of committing to the Astana and Sochi agreements.

The Sochi agreement was reached in September between Ankara and Moscow, envisaging the preservation of the cease-fire in Idlib, with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region.

Following eight months of calm provided by the Sochi deal, the regime intensified its attacks starting from April 26 under the pretext of fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants holed up in Idlib. The intermittent attacks and bombardments have killed, wounded and displaced many civilians.

Being an opposition last enclave, Idlib's prewar population of 1.5 million has swelled to around 3 million with new refugee waves after it was designated a "de-escalation zone" under the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran in May 2017 to pave the way for a permanent political solution in Syria.

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