UPDATE – Turkish FM discusses Syria with US counterpart on phone

ADDS FURTHER DETAILS

By Tevfik Durul

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke over the phone about the latest situation in Syria’s Idlib province, a Turkish diplomatic source said Tuesday.

Cavusoglu and Pompeo discussed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.

Cavusoglu also held phone conversations with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, German counterpart Heiko Maas and EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

Following a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two countries agreed Monday to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold.

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 in which they are already present while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.

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 in the area, which has long been controlled by various armed opposition groups.

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

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