Turkey, Russia discussing joint-patrols in Syria's Idlib - Turkish official

Turkey and Russia are discussing conducting joint patrols in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib to ensure security in the region, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a Turkish official. 

Turkish and Russian forces resumed joint patrols in a safe zone in northern Syria agreed in October after a two-week pause due to escalating tensions in Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave where the two countries agreed to establish a demilitarised zone in 2018.

Russia-backed Syrian government launched an attack on Idlib in April, saying that jihadist groups had strengthened their hold in the province. Since the end of December, 13 Turkish soldiers have been killed in Idlib by Syrian shelling and 1 million civilians have fled to areas near the Turkish border, as Syrian forces advanced, seizing areas around Turkey’s observation posts.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that a Turkish intervention into Idlib was only a matter of time, referring to an end-of-February deadline he set for Syrian forces to withdraw from positions beyond Turkish observation posts. 

The official told Reuters that Iran, Turkey and Russia planned to meet in Tehran early next month to further discuss Syria, including Idlib. 

A Russian delegation may come to Ankara before that for further talks, the official said.

The Turkish and Russian delegations have met twice since the beginning of February to discuss easing tensions in Idlib. Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday that talks with Russia were warming, but not to the desired levels.