Assad: We do not recognise Russian-Turkish demilitarized buffer zone in Syria's Idlib
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday announced an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone patrolled by Turkish and Russian soldiers in the Syrian rebel-held province of Idlib while Russia announced an offensive on the province is off the table, BBC news reported.
However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced his refusal to recognise the agreement and vowed to press the offensive on Idlib in coming days.
The buffer zone will come into effect on Oct. 15, according to the agreement reached by the pair on Monday in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi.
The Russian president, in a statement following his meeting with Erdogan, stressed that all heavy weapons would have to be withdrawn by the warring parties, and rebels and jihadists would have to pull out.
The zone would be between 15 and 20 kilometres deep along the front between the rebels and regime troops, Putin said.
Following the talks between Putin and Erdogan, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu said Russia would not conduct a military operation in Idlib.
"In the next few hours we will coordinate all the issues set forth in this document with them [Damascus authorities]," Shoigu said.
Erdoğan, who has been holding talks with his allies Russia and Iran over the fate of Syria’s Idlib and surrounding districts which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, said the joint statement would bring “new hope” to the region.
The Assad regime, however, made clear its intention to move forward with an attack on Idlib after the demilitarised zone was announced on Monday evening.
"The agreement signed by Russia and Turkey today changes nothing. The Syrian army will begin its attacks on Lazkiye, North Hama and Al-Gah, and Idlib will be taken very soon," Assad's statement said.
BREAKING: Major Russia - Turkey Breakthrough on Idlib #Syria :— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 17, 2018
•15 Km Buffer Demilitarized Zone for TK and RU by Oct 15
•HTS / Nusra would withdraw, unclear about rebels
•Erdogan: We prevented a humanitarian Catastrophe in Idlib
•Russia Def.: NO military offensive in Idlib
Turkey had repeatedly expressed its concerns of a looming humanitarian crisis in the region, where the recent escalation of violence has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 people.
The decision in Sochi follows Erdoğan’s failure to persuade his Russian and Iranian counterparts to agree to a ceasefire in Idlib, proposed during a trilateral summit held in Tehran on Sept. 7.