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Russia, Turkey agree to establish demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib — Putin

Russia and Turkey have agreed to set up a demilitarized zone along the contact line between Syrian government troops and the armed opposition by October 15

SOCHI, September 17. /TASS/. Russia and Turkey have agreed to set up a 15-20km demilitarized zone along the contact line between Syrian government troops and the armed opposition by October 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday after talks with his visiting Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"At the meeting, we discussed in detail this situation (in the Idlib governorate) and decided to establish a 15-20km-wide demilitarized zone along the contact line between government troops and the armed opposition by October 15, 2018 and evacuate radical militants, including Jabhat al-Nusra (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia - TASS)," he said.

Putin also told about other agreements reached at his talks with Erdogan. Thus, at the Turkish president’s initiative, it is planned "to withdraw from this zone heavy weapons, tanks, multiple missile launcher systems, artillery systems and mortars of all opposition groups" by October 10," Putin informed. "Control in the demilitarized zone will be exercised by mobile patrol groups of Turkish units and units of Russian military police."

He 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."

"Russia and Turkey are working closely to resolve the Syrian crisis, to strengthen the ceasefire and improve the humanitarian situation," Putin said, adding that during today’s talks the sides "focused on the situation the Idlib governorate taking into account the presence of big groups of militants and their infrastructure there."

The Russian president noted that his talks with the Syrian counterpart have yielded "coordinated solutions." He recalled that Russia was worried over that fact that militants concentrated in that area pose threats "both to the city of Aleppo and our military facilities in Syria, namely in Tartus and Hmeymim."

Putin said consultations are being prepared with the Syrian authorities on the initiative to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib.

"In general, the Syrian leadership supports this approach," he said. "We will hold additional consultations with the Syrian authorities soon."

"Russia and Turkey reiterated their commitment to continue anti-terrorism efforts in Syria in any of its forms or manifestations," Putin stressed. "We agreed that practical implementation of the steps we plan will give a fresh impetus to the process of political settlement of the Syrian conflict and will make it possible to invigorate efforts in the Geneva format and will help restore peace in Syria."

Syria constitution committee

Putin believes the Syria constitution committee should begin its work in the most immediate future.

"We'll continue the efforts to form the constitution committee from among the members of Syrian leadership, opposition forces and civil society," Putin said. "The task is to ensure the start of its work very shortly."

Putin said Moscow and Ankara planned to continue using the Astana format of consultations to the maximum and simultaneously looking for long-term political solutions at the talks in Geneva under the UN umbrella.

He thanked President Erdogan and other participants in the talks "for joint intensive, constructive and fruitful work."