‘Turkey, Russia deal on Idlib important achievement’

By Sarp Ozer

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s defense minister on Tuesday welcomed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib province, calling it an “important achievement”.

In a meeting with some ambassadors in the capital Ankara, Hulusi Akar said a huge humanitarian crisis was prevented with the agreement on Idlib signed Monday in Russia's coastal city of Sochi.

“Turkey will, as it has been from the beginning of the Syria crisis, continue carrying out its responsibilities on the Idlib issue,” Akar said.

He said, “The agreement is an important achievement to the countries involved — particularly Russia — and the people of the region, as much it is to prevent the burden on Turkey.”

He said Turkey would continue its military actions in Idlib in coordination with Russia.

Akar said the international security and stability has been recently facing important risks, while Turkey is struggling with more than one threat.

"Turkey has been fighting against FETO, PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK, and, at the same time, hosting more than 3 million Syrians," Akar said.

Akar said Turkey was respectful to the territorial and political integrity of all its neighbors, not only Syria and Iraq.

Akar went on to say, "However, we have not been silent against the attacks on our country from these countries. Our main goal in the region is to ensure peace and stability, to fight against terrorism.

“In doing so, we show great sensitivity not to harm the innocent people, the environment, religious and cultural structures."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday, following their talks in Sochi, to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib province.

Putin said the demilitarized zone will extend between 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) deep into Idlib by Oct. 15.

Turkish and Russian armed forces will conduct joint patrols along the zone's perimeter, according to the agreement.

Located near the Turkish border, Idlib province is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.

The Syrian regime had announced plans last month to launch a major military offensive to the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.

The UN warned that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".