Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Turkey and Russia working on ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib

The province in the north-west of the Middle Eastern country has suffered increased violence in recent days

A Turkish official said on Tuesday that Ankara was talking to Moscow with the aim of reaching a new ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province, the country’s last major rebel-held stronghold.

“We are closely following the process for an end to the attacks, and these attacks should come to an end immediately and implemented under a new ceasefire,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told a televised news conference. “This is our main expectation from the Russian side.”

Idlib province in north-west Syria has suffered an increase in violence in recent days as the Syrian regime and allied Russian forces launch a new offensive to capture the stronghold. Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has repeatedly vowed to take back the area and increase the 70 per cent of the country under his regime’s control.

Last September, Russia and Turkey agreed to turn the Idlib province into a de-escalation zone but since then, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in air strikes, in repeated violations of the ceasefire. This has caused more than a million Syrians to flee their homes and move over the Turkish border.

A Turkish delegation, including Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, met Russian officials in Moscow on Monday to discuss the escalating situation in Syria.

Mr Kalin said on Tuesday that Turkey was now waiting for Russia to “begin efforts in the coming 24 hours for an end to the regime attacks in Idlib.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN expressed dismay as thousands of Syrians continued to flee north-west Syria in the face of a military escalation by the regime.

A statement from a representative of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” about the escalation and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“The Secretary General is alarmed by the scale of the military operation and reported attacks on evacuation routes as civilians try to flee north to safety,” the statement read. Mr Guterres “reminds all parties of their obligations to protect civilians and ensure freedom of movement.”

Abu Ahmad, one of the last people to flee from Maaret al-Numan in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, reacts as he rides in a pick-up truck before leaving the town with his family towards a camp for the displaced, on December 24, 2019. AFP
Abu Ahmad, one of the last people to flee from Maaret al-Numan in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, reacts as he rides in a pick-up truck before leaving the town with his family towards a camp for the displaced, on December 24, 2019. AFP

Mr Kalin also said on Tuesday that Turkish parliament was readying a bill that would allow it to send troops to Libya to support its government against strongman Khalifa Haftar’s offensive.

Turkey had previously said that it would send troops if required to the war-torn North African country. Ankara has already sent military supplies to Fayez Al Serraj’s government in Libya, despite a UN arms embargo.

Updated: December 25, 2019 09:05 AM

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