Russian Federation and Turkey to set up Idlib buffer zone to protect civilians

The Syrian and Russian national flags are seen at a stand in Damascus International Fair

The Syrian and Russian national flags are seen at a stand in Damascus International Fair

In long talks in the Russian city of Sochi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to create a buffer area between Syria's rebels and pro-government militias by October 15.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday said there would be no military assault on Syria's rebel province Idlib after Turkey and Russia agreed to create a demilitarized zone in the area.

Putin told a joint news conference with Erdogan: "We agreed that by Oct 15 (we will) create along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops a demilitarised zone of a depth of 15 to 20 km, with the withdrawal from there of radically-minded rebels, including al-Nusra".

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be 15-km to 25-km wide and come into force by 15 October.

So in light of the recent development, the anticipated operation is believed to have been pushed back to a later time this month to give a chance for the efforts to separate the terror groups from other rebel factions, according to Maher Ihsan, a Syrian analyst. The US and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries backing anti-government forces had repeatedly warned Russian Federation and Syria not to launch any new offensive in the region. Millions "of civilians in Idlib are in peace", he tweeted.

"I think that the solutions that prolong the de-escalation zones' concept in Idlib are practically temporary and are not comprehensive or permanent", he said.

In the provincial capital, Idlib city, and in towns including Kafranbel, Dana, Azaz, Maaret al-Numan and al-Bab, demonstrators filled the streets after noon prayers and chanted against Assad, raising the tri-color green, white and black flag that has become the banner of Syria's 2011 uprising, activists said.

Turkey, the United Nations and aid groups have warned that a generalised assault by Russian and Syrian forces backing Bashar al-Assad against what remains of the uprising against him will lead to a mass displacement of as many as 800,000 refugees over the border into an already overwhelmed Turkey.

Erdogan stated: "The opposition will continue to remain in the areas where they are".

"One million children are trapped in Idlib facing what could be the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the long and bloody history of Syria's seven-year war", said Syria Response Advocacy Manager Caroline Anning. "In turn, we are counting on creation of favorable conditions for the advancement of Russian products in the Turkish market", Putin said after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Russian government has repeatedly described Idlib as a "hotbed" for terrorism, even claiming that rebel forces were preparing a chemical attack that would ultimately be blamed on the Syrian regime. The other three zones have since been retaken by Syrian government forces.

An Idlib offensive holds multiple threats for Turkey right on its border — a humanitarian crisis, a security nightmare with thousands of gunmen loose and a defeat to its plans for the safe zone.

Latest News