Russia, Turkey reach ceasefire deal in northwestern Syria
March 6, 2020 - A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey has come into effect in northwestern Syria, where escalating fighting had threatened to put forces from the two countries into direct conflict.
The Associated Press report that the truce halted a terrifying campaign of bombing from above that killed hundreds and sent a million people fleeing toward the Turkish border during the Russian-backed assault by Syrian government forces on the country’s last rebel stronghold.
The agreement, announced Thursday after a six-hour meeting between the Turkish and Russian presidents in Moscow, essentially froze the conflict lines. The deal does not force Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces to roll back military gains made in the past three months, which had been a key Turkish demand.
That effectively rules out the possibility of hundreds of thousands of displaced people returning to their homes.
The deal also lacked specifics or a known mechanism to enforce the truce. It is the latest of many ceasefire agreements for Idlib over the past few years. All have ended up unraveling after few months, triggering new government offensives that captured more territory from the opposition. Government forces now control much of Syria after evicting rebels from other parts of country.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan each back rival sides in the Syrian conflict and have become the main power brokers in the war-torn country.
The situation in Idlib worsened in recent weeks after Turkey sent thousands of troops there. Clashes with Syrian government forces have killed 60 Turkish soldiers and scores of Syrian troops since the beginning of February.
The Russia-Turkey agreement appears to achieve Moscow’s key goal of allowing the Syrian government to keep control of the north-south highway known as the M5. Syrian forces captured the highway’s last segments in the latest offensive.
The deal also would set up a security corridor along the M4, a key east-west highway in Idlib. According to the ceasefire deal published in Syrian pro-government media, Russian and Turkish troops are supposed to begin joint patrols on the M4 on March 15.
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