Turkish and Russian officials have agreed on the details of a cease-fire in northwest Syria's Idlib region, and joint patrols along the key M4 highway will begin on Sunday, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday.
Akar also said that Turkey and Russia will establish joint coordination centers to monitor the implementation of the agreement after the conclusion of talks with Russian officials in Ankara.
He added there were signs that migration in the region had stopped and returns had begun.
Earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry stated that negotiations with the Russian military delegation on Idlib would continue to be conducted in a positive and constructive manner.
The statement also noted that troops at the Turkish observation posts would similarly continue to carry out their duties. "There are no issues regarding the observation posts. There have been no violations (of the cease-fire) against observation posts either," a Turkish security official said, adding that no heavy arms or equipment would be withdrawn from the area.
"The point of the observation posts is to end the bloodshed and humanitarian drama. The step taken on March 5 should be seen as a move toward this. There is no such thing as 'an agreement was signed on March 5 so everything is finished,' it has just been frozen," the official told a briefing in the capital Ankara.
As part of the agreement, Turkish and Russian forces will carry out joint patrols along the M4 highway linking Syria's east and west, and establish a security corridor on either side of it.
A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the finer details of the deal.
The official said talks with the Russians had been "positive" and that the first joint patrol would be held on Sunday as planned, adding that groups aiming to interrupt these efforts would be responded to with the measures necessary.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria's war, agreed on March 5 to halt military activity in the northwestern Idlib region after an escalation of violence displaced nearly a million people and brought the two sides close to confrontation. The deal addresses Turkey's main concerns, stopping a flow of refugees and preventing the deaths of more Turkish soldiers on the ground.
Around 60 Turkish troops have been killed in clashes in the region in the last month, yet the cease-fire has largely held since March 5.
Turkey set up a dozen military observation posts in the Idlib region under a 2018 agreement with Russia, but most of these are now in areas held by Syrian regime forces. Ankara had previously warned that it would push Syrian regime forces back from the area if they did not withdraw.
President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday Turkey, which has backed a number of Syrian opposition groups, would not shy away from even stronger military action in Idlib if the cease-fire is broken.
The Turkish official also said on Friday that "necessary interventions" would be made against groups aiming to violate the cease-fire.
Currently, Turkish soldiers are stationed in the region to protect the local population and moderate opposition groups. Still, despite the military escalation, Ankara has also been putting forth efforts to keep diplomatic channels active with Russia in the hope of finding a political solution, urging the country to uphold the latest cease-fire.
An offensive by the Bashar Assad regime, backed by Russian airpower, against the last stronghold of opposition groups has drawn strong warnings from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Approximately 541,000 civilians have been displaced from settlements in Idlib's southern and southeastern and Aleppo's western and southern rural areas since November 2019.
Turkey remains the host of the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million civilians who have fled since the start of the Syrian civil war.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.