Russian President Vladimir Putin has said both Russia and Turkey are fulfilling commitments to a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib area agreed during recent talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Thursday.
“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facilitating the process when militants from different radical groups are leaving this zone and when heavy weaponry is withdrawn,” Putin said at a press conference after Russian-Austrian talks.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 Erdoğan], 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 Erdoğan in Sochi,” the Russian leader noted.
The Russian president pointed out that the agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone had been negotiated at September talks with Turkish President Erdoğan in Sochi.
Recent reports suggest that rebel groups are still hesitating to withdraw their heavy weaponry and to move to the demilitarized zone.