MOSCOW, August 2. /TASS/. Russia hopes that Turkey will fully implement within the next 24 hours the agreements on the withdrawal of militants and weapons from the Idlib de-escalation zone in response to the Syrian government’s initiative to cease hostilities in the area, Major General Alexey Bakin, the chief of the Russian Center for reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria, told reporters on Friday.
"Pursuing the aim of stabilizing the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and in support of the Astana international meeting on Syria, which is underway in the city of Nur-Sultan, Syria’s President Bashar Assad decided to completely cease fire and any offensives in the Idlib de-escalation zone starting from midnight on August 2, 2019," Bakin said.
"In response to the Syrian initiative, Turkey is expected to implement in the next 24 hours in full the provisions of the Sochi agreements stipulating that militants and weapons should be withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, shelling should be stopped and the Damascus-Aleppo road should be unblocked," he added.
Bakin recalled that in breach of the ceasefire, illegal armed groups opened fire on the settlement of Qardahah in Latakia province at 06.55am Moscow time. The settlement is known as the home town of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s family and is located 14 kilometers north of the Russian air base Hmeymim.
"Militants conducted shelling with the use of multiple rocket launcher systems from the Jabal Shaboh area located inside the Idlib de-escalation zone. The illegal armed group deployed multiple rocket launcher systems at the firing position under the cover of fog, so it could not be detected in time by either air reconnaissance or observers. Twelve blasts were recorded near Kardaza. One civilian was killed and three more were injured in the shelling," he said.
Idlib is the only large region in Syria that is still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a northern de-escalation zone was set up there to give shelter to militants and their families who refused to reconcile with the government and to voluntarily surrender arms. The zone consists of the Idlib province and some areas of the neighboring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo.
The Russian and Turkish presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met in Russia’s Sochi on September 17, 2018 and their talks resulted in an agreement to establish by October 15 a demilitarized zone in Idlib, which should be 15-20 kilometers deep along the line disengaging Syria’s government troops and armed opposition.
Nonetheless, Ankara asked then for extra time and for a delay in starting joint patrolling in Idlib, citing inability to ensure security.