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  • Civilians walk in the rain past a damaged building in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria October 28, 2015.

    Civilians walk in the rain past a damaged building in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria October 28, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 August 2019

The state agency cited a Syrian military source who announced the government's "approval for a ceasefire in the buffer zone in Idlib starting tonight."

Syria’s government agreed Thursday to a ceasefire in the northwestern rebel-held region of Idlib if the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone is implemented, according to the state news agency, SANA.

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Russia, Turkey Agree to Create Demilitarized Zone in Syria's Idlib

The state agency cited a Syrian military source who announced the government's "approval for a ceasefire in the buffer zone in Idlib starting tonight" on the condition that rebels withdraw forces and weaponry as agreed upon in September 2018 in Sochi. 

The Sochi accord was reached on September 2018 when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin backed a plan to create a buffer zone in Idlib with the aim to separate Syrian troops and rebels.

The demilitarized zone would be monitored by mobile patrol groups of Turkish units and Russian military police.

"We agreed that by Oct. 15 (we will) create along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops a demilitarized zone of a depth of 15-20 km, with the withdrawal from there of radically-minded rebels, including al-Nusra," Putin said in a joint news conference with Erdogan back in September.

In their proposed timeline "by Oct. 10, at the suggestion of the Turkish president, (we agreed) on the withdrawal from that zone of the heavy weapons, tanks, rockets systems and mortars of all opposition groups," the Russian head of state added at the time. 

However, the agreement was not achieved. President Bashar Al-Assad’s admnistration has accused Turkey of delaying the implementation.

“The agreement has been continuously violated by rocket attacks to safe areas and military points that protect civilians, causing the death and wounding of dozens, mostly children and women,” SANA reported quoting a military source. 

It is for this reason Russia’s Syria envoy, Alexander Lavrentyev, embraced the decision by Assad’s goverment to take this step and introduce a truce, as reported by Interfax news agency after the first day of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Nur Sultan.

Idlib is held by an array of rebels. The most powerful is Tahrir al-Sham, an amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra Front - an al Qaeda affiliate until 2016.

Other Islamists, and groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner, are now gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the "National Front for Liberation."

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