ISTANBUL/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Saturday there had been no violations of the ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib, as part of an agreement with Russia, while Russia said there have been a few shootings in the region.
“We will continue to be a deterrent force to prevent any violation to the ceasefire. None occurred since ceasefire entered into force,” the Turkish Defence Ministry quoted Akar as saying.
The ceasefire was reached in Moscow on Thursday after talks to contain an escalating conflict.
Nearly a million people have been displaced in a three-month Russian-backed offensive by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in northwest Syria. Ankara supports rebel fighters, although it has less sway over jihadists who control large parts of Idlib.
Russian news agencies, citing the defense ministry, said there have been three cases of shooting in Idlib in the past 24 hours.
It also said there were seven cases of shootings in Latakia and nine in Aleppo. The defense ministry also reported that 860 refugees have returned to Syria from Jordan and Lebanon for the past day.
Akar also said Turkey would use its right to self-defense if there is any attack targeting its forces or bases in the region.
The deal called for joint patrols of Turkish and Russian forces around the M4 road in Idlib region starting on March 15.
Turkey has started to work on the procedures and principles of the safety corridor around the road, Akar said, adding that a Russian military delegation will visit Ankara next week for discussions.
Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with Moscow supporting Assad and Turkey backing some rebel groups. Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed.
Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Shri Navaratnam and Frances Kerry
Image: FILE PHOTO: Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar attends a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir