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New Russia-Turkey deal on Idlib comes in continuation of bilateral memorandum — diplomat

March 15, 3:19 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

Russia and Turkey are to patrol the area in turns in line with bilateral agreements

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minsiter Sergei Vershinin

Russian Deputy Foreign Minsiter Sergei Vershinin

© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

BRUSSELS, March 15. /TASS/. The new agreement between Russia and Turkey on the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib comes in continuation of the bilateral memorandum signed in September 2018, Russian Deputy Foreign Minsiter Sergei Vershinin said on Thursday night.

"The new agreement comes in continuation of the Russian-Turkish cooperation based on provisions of the 2018 memorandum," he said, answering to a TASS reporter’s question. "Those provisions envisage, among other things, joint Russian-Turkish patrols, disengagement lines and also include the creation of a joint coordination center. Their implementation is now under way."

According to the Russian diplomat, Russia and Turkey are to patrol the area in turns in line with bilateral agreements.

"In other words, there will be unilateral patrols by, say, the Turkish side, followed by Russian patrols, and then by joint patrols. Those patrols have already begun and they will continue," he said.

Vershinin added that implementing the memorandum remains "a very complicated process."

"At the moment, it would be correct to say that many thousands of militants, jihadists, including foreign terrorists, have gathered in Idlib. This [patrolling missions] is a very delicate and serious process and, naturally, we cannot afford putting at risk Russian servicemen who would be fulfilling this task," he said.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that Moscow and Ankara continued their efforts to create a joint coordination center in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone. He also said the sides had signed a new agreement on Idlib earlier this month. According to Akar, the document "clarifies the joint work" Turkey and Russia have been doing.

On September 17, 2018, the Russian and Turkish presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at their talks in Russia’s Sochi agreed to establish by October 15 a demilitarized zone in Idlib, which should be 15-20 kilometers deep along the line disengaging Syria’s government forces and armed opposition. Nonetheless, Ankara asked for extra time and for a delay in the beginning of the joint patrolling in Idlib, saying it has so far been unable to provide security guarantees.

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