Russia and Turkey agree ceasefire deal which is likely to be fragile
Turkey and Russia agreed a ceasefire deal on Thursday in Syria’s Idlib region. The ceasefire would begin at midnight on Thursday evening.
The three-point agreement assumes the creation of a seven-mile (12km) “safety corridor” along the country’s crucial M4 highway, which Russian and Turkish forces would begin patrolling at the end of next week.
The two leaders also called for further negotiations to limit the humanitarian crisis in the region and facilitate the return of refugees to their homes.
The agreement effectively preserves the territorial gains made by Syrian forces during a three-month offensive in Idlib, the country’s last remaining rebel stronghold, while letting the Turks to retains presence in the region.
Russia and Turkey support opposing sides of Syria’s war. While Russia backs the Syrian government, Turkey supports the rebels.
Turkey had sent thousands of troops into Syria to halt a Syrian offensive aimed at retaking territory in Idlib province. That led to direct clashes between the two countries.
At least 58 Turkish soldiers have died in the fighting, including 33 that were killed last week in a single airstrike. Turkey has retaliated against Syrian forces with drone and artillery strikes, and shot down several Syrian warplanes, probably killing more than 150 Syrian soldiers and other fighters aligned with Assad.
Russia, which has provided military support to Syria’s government since 2015, initially avoided taking part in the conflict, apparently to prevent an escalation with Ankara. But it re-entered the battle on Monday, helping Syria to retake the strategic town of Saraqeb and deploying its military police to prevent Turkish reprisals.
Erdoğan wants to stop Assad’s offensive in Idlib and retain territory under its control.
The fighting has exacerbated the refugee crisis. According to the UN, the Syrian offensive has had “catastrophic” humanitarian consequences, driving an estimated 1 million refugees from their homes since it began in December. Three million more are said to be trapped in Idlib.
In an attempt to put pressure on Europe, Erdoğan opened Turkey’s borders with Greece and said his country would no longer prevent migrants from travelling to the EU. Thousands of refugees went to the border with the EU. Several European officials have accused Ankara of “blackmailing” them by using the threat of migrant flows to force the EU to put pressure on Russia.