Russian defense minister rules out new military operation in Syria’s Idlib

Putin this month publicly rebuffed a proposal from Erdogan for a ceasefire

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Sochi on September 17, 2018.

17 there would be no assault on Syria's Idlib as the leaders of Russian Federation and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarised zone around the Syrian rebel-held province.

All heavy weapons would have to be withdrawn by the warring parties, and "radically-minded" rebels and jihadists would have to pull out, he added.

The zone will be established by October 15 and be 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep, President Vladimir Putin said at the end of a more than three-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey's military has sent its most significant batch of reinforcements to the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib in weeks, reports say, as Ankara seeks to prevent a Moscow-backed assault by forces of President Bashar Assad.

"We will prevent a humanitarian tragedy which could happen as a result of military action", Erdoğan said after the talks.

Idlib is one of the de-escalation zones as part of the Astana format.

The United Nations and non-governmental organisations have repeatedly warned that such an offensive would unleash a "bloodbath" and "humanitarian catastrophe" in Idlib.

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The Turkish military has 12 observation posts surrounding Idlib province, established as part of a de-confliction agreement with Russian Federation and Iran, the key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The plan is major landmark for Syria, where the standoff in the last militant stronghold of Idlib has threatened to turn into a major worldwide crisis in recent weeks.

"Control in the demilitarised zone will be organised together with mobile patrol groups of Turkish contingents and contingents of Russian military police", he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be 15km to 25km (9-15 miles) wide and come into force by 15 October.

"The opposition will continue to remain in the areas where they are". "But we are still not satisfied".

While backing separate sides, Turkey, Russia, and Iran launched a negotiations process a year ago in the Kazakh capital, Astana, mainly dealing with battlefield issues, such as cease-fires and deescalation zones.

Asked by a journalist whether it was true that no more military operations were planned to be held in Idlib, the Russian defense minister said "Yes [it is true]". At the same time, it has sent reinforcements to its troops ringing Idlib, a move created to ward off a ground assault, at least for now.

Turkey, which borders Idlib, supports some rebel groups there and has grave concern over the effects of an operation in the province that holds some three million people.

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