Putin, Erdogan To Meet In Sochi For ‘Serious’ Talks On Syria’s Idlib

Turkish President

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"We've focused on the situation in the province of Idlib, considering presence of large militant groups and their infrastructure there", Putin said at a press conference after the talks.

The leaders of Russian Federation and Turkey agreed Monday to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib region, the last major stronghold of anti-government rebels where fears had been running high of a devastating offensive by government forces.

He said the zone would be enforced by Turkish patrols on the opposition side and Russian patrols on the government side.

As part of solving the deadlock, all heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, will be withdrawn from the zone before October 10, Putin said.

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Moscow and Tehran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial support throughout the war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011. In what appears to a breakthrough solution, Putin and Erdogan have agreed to ensure peace with the help of Russian and Turkish troops.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to withdraw all weapons from the zone, which will come into force by October 15. "But together with Russian Federation, we will put our efforts into clearing those territories of radical elements", he said, referring to al-Qaeda-linked extremists in Idlib.

The plan is major landmark for Syria, where the standoff in the last militant stronghold of Idlib has threatened to turn into a major worldwide crisis in recent weeks. Turkey, with 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has already borne the "political and human burden" of Syria's seven-year-old conflict and any new refugee flow would head for Turkey, Erdogan said.

Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Turkey-backed rebel group Faylaq al-Sham, thanked Erdogan for saving Idlib from an offensive and give the rebels time to defend their rebellion and people.

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Turkey and the United Nations say if the offensive proceeds, it could trigger a massive refugee and humanitarian crisis.

While backing separate sides, Turkey, Russia, and Iran launched a negotiations process past year in the Kazakh capital, Astana, mainly dealing with battlefield issues, such as cease-fires and deescalation zones.

During the summit, Erdogan called for a cease-fire in northwestern Idlib province of Syria - where the Syrian regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive.

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