By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed recent developments in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone, her office said on Wednesday.
Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said in a statement that the leaders mainly talked about the recent agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's northwestern Idlib province.
“The chancellor welcomed the efforts aimed at preventing a military escalation and protecting the civilian population,” Seibert said.
The two leaders also addressed the situation in eastern Ukraine and the humanitarian issues, he added.
On Monday, Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold, following a meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin.
Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
According to the MoU, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present.
Turkish and Russian military forces, meanwhile, will conduct joint patrols along the zone's perimeter with a view to preventing any renewal of fighting.
Located near the Turkish border, Idlib is home to more than three million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.
The Syrian regime announced plans last month to launch a major military offensive in the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.
But, the UN warned that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".