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Russia and Turkey fulfilling their agreement on Syria's Idlib — Putin

The Russian president said he hopes a military operation in Idlib will not be needed, since the situation is normalizing thanks to joint efforts of Russia and Turkey

ST. PETERSBURG, October 3. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the idea to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib arose during his recent talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Russian leader confirmed that both Russia and Turkey are fulfilling their commitments.

"We are working together with our Turkish partners. We see that they are treating these agreements very seriously, fulfilling their commitments, freeing or at least facilitating the process when militants from different radical groups are leaving this zone and when heavy weaponry is withdrawn," Putin said at a press conference after Russian-Austrian talks. "We are doing our part of the job. We will continue our joint efforts," he added.

The Russian president noted that "during the talks [with Erdogan], the idea arose to create a demilitarized zone [in Idlib] about 15-20 kilometers deep, in order to ensure greater security of Syrian civilian facilities, cities, settlements, as well as our military base in Hmeymim."

Putin said that "militants from all over Syria were brought [to Idlib], and many representatives of radical groups ISIL, Jebhat al-Nusra (both banned in Russia) and others ended up there, unfortunately." "Moreover, we are witnessing confrontations between those groups in the Idlib zone," the Russian president noted.

"However, this is not what we are most worried about. We are instead worried that Syrian settlements, including the second-largest Syrian city of Aleppo, have been recently shelled more frequently from that zone. What worries us even more is that attempts to attack our military facilities - Russian military facilities, including the air base in Hmeymim - have been launched from that zone with the use of hand-made but still no less dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles," Putin said.

"Because of that, we had to react, to deliver strikes at those places where the threat was coming from. This served as the main topic of last negotiations with President Erdogan in Sochi," the Russian leader noted.

Situation in Idlib

Putin said he hopes a military operation in Idlib will not be needed, since the situation is normalizing thanks to efforts made by Russia and Turkey.

"Principally, work is being done in the right direction. I have every reason to believe that we will achieve our goals, which means that no massive military operations could be expected there [in Idlib]," the Russian president confirmed.

"We do not need fighting for the sake of fighting, as we should achieve certain goals," he elaborated. "Those instruments, which we have picked up to pursue those goals, have been working effectively so far," he added.

Putin reminded of the agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone. "We will get ahead with the scheduled events, including joint patrolling by the Turkish Armed Forces and Russian military police," he assured adding that "it could have been impossible without those agreements being negotiated with Syria’s official government and also without Iran’s support."

The Russian president pointed out that the agreements on Idlib de-escalation zone had been negotiated at September talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi.

Delivering humanitarian aid to Syria

Putin added that he hopes Europe will not politicize the issue of humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria on the basis of who holds control over different parts of the country.

"I don't know how united Europe will act in regards to providing aid to the Syrian people, but I think that this work should be depoliticized. Syria's population should not be divided depending on the territory where those people reside," he said.

The Russian president noted there should be no difference from the humanitarian point of view whether people in need of aid live in areas controlled by official Damascus or in places controlled by "some kind of non-systemic opposition, militants and so on." "Should people suffer because they live in a particular region, which is controlled by certain political forces and not others?" Putin asked.

He also expressed confidence that it is in the interests of Europe to create conditions for refugees to return to their own countries. "According to our estimates for this year, hundreds of thousands of people have already returned home. Together with Europe, we could provide basic help with repairing sewers, restoring water supply and electricity, facilitating the restoration of infrastructure in order to be able to deliver food and different medical supplies. We could create conditions for people to return home and to live there. Isn't it in Europe's best interest?" Putin said.

"Let's work together on resolving these issues that are not that complicated and not that costly, but very important for many people," the Russian president concluded.

Promoting political process in Syria

Putin also said that he sees prospects to intensify the political process in Syria on the basis of Resolution 2254 of the United Nations Security Council and Astana agreements.

"We can see prospects to activate the political process [in Syria] basing on Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council and accords within the framework of Astana process," he noted.

"This will allow to cement positive trends on the ground and create conditions for the further revival of peaceful life and the return of refugees to their homes," he added.

According to Putin, Moscow sees Vienna’s readiness to join humanitarian missions in support of Syria’s population.

"It is crucial that any aid would be provided via the channels agreed with [Syria’s] legitimate government and would be distributed across all the areas affected by terrorist aggression and the civil war," the president emphasized.