Turkish forces started patrolling the north-western Syria province of Idlib yesterday as part of a deal reached at a summit in February, state news agency Anadolu reported.
The patrols extend from Idlib’s north to the southern countryside of Aleppo province, Anadolu said.
The mission follows a deal reached on February 14 between leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran in Sochi.
“The patrols started only from one Turkish observation point to another,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
An activist in Aleppo who spoke on condition of anonymity said he saw
“a Turkish convoy of military cars” in the western countryside of Aleppo.
Earlier yesterday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish and Russian forces would start independent patrols in Idlib.
“Russian patrols on border areas outside of Idlib and Turkish patrols within the demilitarised zone will start as of today,” Akar was quoted as saying by Anadolu.
The patrols mark “an important step for the continuation of ceasefire and maintaining stability [in Idlib],” he said.
Last year, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to establish a demilitarised buffer zone in the enclave, a move that prevented a major government offensive there.
Turkey has since set up 12 “observation posts” while Russia has 10 posts in a “15-20-km-wide” demilitarised zone in Idlib, Akar added.
Akar separately said restrictions on the use of air space over Idlib and the Turkish-controlled enclave of Afrin in northern Syria are “lifted as of today.”
Nato ally Turkey has supported rebels against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed both by Russia and Iran.
Akar accused Assad of the “brutal bombardment” of civilians in Idlib, calling on Moscow to “stop the [Assad] regime.”
Assad’s forces have been carrying out shelling of Idlib, which is largely controlled by Al Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) coalition.
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