Feb 11 2019

Russian defence minister in Turkey to discuss Syria's Idlib

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is in the Turkish capital of Ankara to meet his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Monday to discuss developments in Syria, notably northwestern Idlib province, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The meeting will take place ahead of the trilateral summit between the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran to be held in the Russian resort city of Sochi on Feb. 14.

With a 2018 September deal between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarised zone in Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave, and expressly prohibited any act of aggression.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib would remain in areas in which they were already present, while Russia and Turkey would carry out joint patrols to prevent the resumption of violence.

However, Ankara has criticised the Syrian government, which was represented by Russia in the talks, for violating the terms of the agreement after the Syrian military started fortifying its positions at the border of the demilitarised zone and engaged in combat with rebels.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government has accused Ankara of failing to meet the obligations of the Sochi agreement, by not clearing the proposed demilitarized zone of heavy weapons and extremist fighters.