He pointed out that the safe belt will include six kilometers north of the international road “M4”, and six kilometers south of it, and that the Turks will start conducting joint patrols with the Russians.
And Erdogan added, “Our goal is to activate the political track in Syria according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and end the internal war,” adding that “we will always be on the alert, and our resolve in this matter is evidenced by the losses we incurred to the regime in the last week.”He also stressed the importance of the developments in Syria and Idlib not affecting the relations between Turkey and Russia, saying, “From this principle, we have taken a very important step.”
In the context, the Turkish President’s office quoted him as saying that the Turkish military observation centers in Idlib, Syria, will maintain their current status within the cease-fire agreement concluded by Ankara and Russia. He added that the agreement laid the basis for returning the situation in the region to normal.
In a related development, pictures broadcast by the Russian agency “Raptley” showed the conduct of joint Turkish-Russian military patrols on the international road “M5”, near the city of Saraqib in Idlib countryside.
This is the first patrol of the two sides – Russian and Turkish – in the vicinity of the strategic city of Saraqib, at the intersection of the two international routes “Aleppo – Damascus” and “Aleppo – Lattakia”.
In the field, Idlib governorate is witnessing a complete absence of warplanes from its airspace since the cease-fire declared by Russia and Turkey entered into force.
Calm after breach
The Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that the regime forces violated the ceasefire agreement minutes after it entered into force, midnight last night; the regime’s artillery targeted several towns close to the fighting lines in Idlib and Aleppo countryside.
The correspondent indicated that a cautious calm later prevailed on the fronts of the fighting in rural Idlib and Aleppo.
For its part, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said at dawn today that it had killed 21 members of the Syrian regime’s forces, after a Turkish army soldier was killed in the Operation “Spring Shield” in Idlib governorate, when the regime forces opened fire against the Turkish forces prior to the announcement of the Turkish-Russian agreement.
The ministry added – in a statement – that two artillery and two rocket launchers were destroyed by the Syrian regime forces, and the statement continued, “The blood of our martyr has not been wasted, and the response was immediately in retaliation for it.”
And began at midnight Thursday, Friday, a cease-fire announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an attempt to end more than three months of military escalation that pushed about a million people to flee, in one of the biggest waves of displacement since the conflict began nine years ago.
Opposition sources expressed doubts that the truce would continue because it did not meet a major Turkish demand that the regime forces withdraw to the borders of the Sochi Agreement, where a safe zone in which millions of displaced people were supposed to take refuge was supposed to be established.
On the other hand, the High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy in the European Union, Josep Borrell, welcomed the cease-fire agreement in Idlib, which was reached between Russia and Turkey.
Borrell described – during a meeting of foreign and defense ministers of the European Union countries to discuss the situation in Idlib and the refugee crisis – the ceasefire as a goodwill gesture for a solution in Idlib.
For his part, Dutch Foreign Minister Steve Block said that the cease-fire agreement in Idlib should be strengthened by setting up a no-fly zone to prevent any hospitals from being bombed.
“I think European countries are very willing to move forward to persuade all members of the UN Security Council to establish this no-fly zone. This will not hinder the fight against al-Qaeda, but it will stop the bombing of hospitals,” he added.