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Ankara, Moscow Eye Closer Coordination on Syria’s Idlib

Ankara, Moscow Eye Closer Coordination on Syria’s Idlib

Thursday, 14 March, 2019 - 10:45
A Turkish military armoured vehicle guards on the border line located opposite the Syrian Atimah, Idlib province in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey and Russia are discussing a "coordination center" to better manage their operations in Syria's Idlib province, which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Turkey's defense minister said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin have been working closely to end the fighting. A Russian-Turkish deal for a demilitarized zone last year protected Idlib by averting a major regime offensive.

The two countries and Ankara are already preparing joint patrols around the northwestern Syrian region.

"We are working on a joint coordination center," Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said after a meeting Wednesday, according to a ministry statement on Thursday.

His remarks came as Russian jets carried out air strikes in Idlib on Wednesday, the first such attacks since the Turkish-Russian deal was signed in September as a way to prevent major bloodshed.

At least 13 civilians, including six infants were killed in the raids, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Activists also said that the Russian airstrikes hit the central prison, leading to the escape of dozens of prisoners.

Earlier this month, Turkey said its forces and Russians would begin ground patrols around Idlib province as part of their ceasefire deal. 

HTS in January took control of the administration of Idlib's region where three million people have been protected. 

A Turkish-backed National Liberation Front controls part of the rebel stronghold.

The Russian-Turkish agreement was supposed to see hardline militants withdraw from Idlib  but they never did.

The ceasefire has held except for sporadic bombardments and skirmishes, avoiding an all-out Syrian military assault.

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