Rare calm in Syria’s Idlib | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:01 AM, March 07, 2020

Rare calm in Syria’s Idlib

Russia-Turkey ceasefire takes effect; EU countries urge warring parties to allow in more humanitarian aid

Syria's war-ravaged northwest woke up to relative calm yesterday, its skies free of warplanes for the first day in months, following a Russian-Turkish ceasefire deal.

The agreement raised hopes of an end to one of the bloodiest phases in the conflict but residents in Idlib were sceptical this deal would last longer than previous ones.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and AFP correspondents in Idlib province said the truce that came into force at midnight appeared to be holding.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman reported "a complete absence of regime and Russian warplanes in the Idlib airspace".

He said an exchange of fire before dawn killed six regime fighters and nine members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a Uighur-dominated jihadist group, but in general belligerents seemed to be observing the ceasefire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal after hours of talks in Moscow late Thursday.

The agreement will create a security corridor along the key M4 highway in northern Syria, where Turkish and Russian forces will launch joint patrols later this month.

Putin told a joint news conference after the talks that the agreement would "serve as a good basis for ending fighting" in Idlib and for "stopping the suffering of the civilian population".

A Russian-backed government offensive on the last rebel bastion in the country has killed hundreds of civilians since December and displaced close to a million people.

European and UN officials welcomed the Moscow deal and said they hoped to see a lasting cessation of hostilities, but residents of the conflict-torn region had low expectations.

EU countries urged warring parties to allow in more humanitarian aid.

Nearly a million civilians have fled their homes due to the Idlib fighting, dubbed by the United Nations the worst humanitarian emergency since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

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