Middle EastPolitics

Turkey and Russia discuss ‘coordination center’ in Syria

Turkey and Russia are discussing a “coordination center” to better manage their operations in Syria’s rebel-controlled Idlib province, Turkey’s defense minister said.

Russia, which is allied with the Syrian government, and Turkey, which supports rebels, have been on opposite sides in the Syrian war.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have been working closely to end the fighting. A Russian-Turkish deal for a demilitarised zone last year protected the Idlib rebel bastion.

The two countries are already preparing joint patrols around the northwestern Syrian region.

“We are working on a joint coordination center,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said after a meeting Wednesday, March 13, according to a ministry statement on Thursday.

His remarks came as Russian jets carried out air strikes in Idlib on Wednesday, the first such attacks since the Turkish-Russian deal was signed in September as a way to prevent major bloodshed.

Earlier this month, Turkey said its forces and Russians would begin ground patrols around Idlib province as part of their ceasefire deal.

Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate.

HTS in January took control of the administration of Idlib’s region where three million people have been protected.

A Turkish-backed National Liberation Front controls part of the rebel stronghold.

The Russian-Turkish agreement was supposed to see hardline jihadist groups withdraw from Idlib but they never did.

The ceasefire has held except for sporadic bombardments and skirmishes, avoiding an all-out Syrian military assault.

Last battlefield: The future of Syria’s Idlib after HTS militant takeover

With reporting from AFP

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