SOCHI, September 17. /TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told journalists on Monday that a new military operation in the Syrian province of Idlib was not on the agenda.
The defense ministries of Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum on Monday on the stabilization of the situation in the zone of de-escalation in Syria’s Idlib. The document was signed following bilateral talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held on Monday in the Russian southern resort city of Sochi.
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]."
"In the hours to come, we plan to make final agreements with them [the Turkish side] on the remaining provisions, which are stipulated in this document," Shoigu said.
Before the memorandum was signed by the Russian and Turkish defense ministries, Russian President Putin stated that he agreed with Turkish leader Erdogan to set up a 15-20 kilometers (9.3-12.4 miles) demilitarized zone along the contact line between Syrian government troops and the armed opposition by October 15.
The Russian president also said that at the Turkish president’s initiative, it was planned "to withdraw from this zone heavy weapons, tanks, multiple missile launch systems, artillery systems and mortars of all opposition groups by October 10."
"Control in the demilitarized zone will be exercised by mobile patrol groups of Turkish units and units of Russia’s military police," Putin stated.
The Russian president also said that the sides agreed to "resume transit traffic along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama highways by the end of 2018, also at the initiative of the Turkish side."
Situation in Idlib
Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms can move together with their families. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib currently hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).
In the past two weeks, Turkey deployed additional troops, artillery and missile launch systems to the border, particularly with Syria’s Idlib province, where Ankara established 12 observation points to monitor the situation in the de-escalation zone.