Turkey, Russia to deploy forces in Syria’s Idlib to secure ‘de-escalation’ zones

Turkish and Russian forces will be deployed in Syria’s Idlib region as part of a ‘de-escalation’ agreement brokered by Russia, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson said on Thursday.

Turkish and Russian forces will be deployed in Syria’s Idlib region as part of a “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson said on Thursday.

In May, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to establish four “de-escalation zones’ during peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.

“We will probably be most prominent in the Idlib region with the Russians; mostly Russia and Iran around Damascus, and a mechanism involving the Americans and Jordan in the south in the Deraa region is being worked on,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said.

Moscow had meanwhile suggested that Kyrgyz and Kazakh forces could also be involved, the spokesman added.

Kalin said the technical delegations were discussing the logistics and details of these zones.

“Who will be deployed and how? How will order be secured? Who will watch the process and how?” he said.

“Talks between Turkish, Russian and Iranian officials continue intensely. We are hopeful.”

‘De-escalation zones to cover eight provinces’

The memorandum agreed during talks in Astana does not specify a start date for the implementation of the zones, which are to be established for at least six months.

Located across eight of Syria’s 14 provinces, the zones do not cover the entire country and the Kurdish-controlled areas of north-eastern Syria are notably left out.

The largest planned zones include Idlib province, which neighbours Turkey, and Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces.

The other three zones are the northern Homs province, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, and along the Jordanian border in the south.

Syrian opposition groups rejected the proposal for “de-escalation zones” last month when they were announced, saying Russia is unable, or unwilling, to ensure the Syrian regime and its Iranian-backed militias to respect ceasefires.

Turkey is a staunch opponent of Bashar al-Assad while Russia and Iran have been his main allies and provided significant military support for the regime.

Since late last year, however, Russia and Turkey have worked closely to find a solution to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

Russia announces new de-escalation zone north of Syria’s Homs

Russia has announced a new “de-escalation zone” starting on Thursday north of Syria’s city of Homs, covering almost 150,000 people.

Russia has announced a ceasefire in Syria’s Homs.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow and Syria’s opposition have agreed to create a new “de-escalation” zone north of the city of Homs, the ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Russian state TV.

A ceasefire in this area is set to take affect at 1200 (0900 GMT) on Thursday, he said. The new de-escalation zone will include 84 settlements populated by more than 147,000 people, Konashenkov said.

Last month Russia said its military police will monitor ceasefire zones being established in Syria, the borders of which were agreed during the fifth round of negotiations in Astana held in July.

Moscow has been one of the Syrian regime’s main military backers, providing air support to Assad’s forces since September 2015.

The airstrikes have resulted in more than 470,000 civilians killed, with countless homes, schools and hospitals also destroyed.

The de-escalation agreements have seen thousands of civilians leave their homes after the Syrian regime recaptured former opposition neighbourhoods.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly broken previous ceasefire agreements, according to war monitors.