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Turkey-Russia agreed ceasefire in northern Syria comes into force

'Relative' calm in Idlib after Syria ceasefire takes effect: monitor

A military ceasefire has taken effect in Idlib, Syria's last rebel stronghold, after extensive talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin.

"At 00.01 midnight, as in, the ceasefire taken effect," as agreed by Erdogan and Putin on Thursday in Moscow after more than six hours of talks.

Activists and a monitoring group also confirmed in the early hours of Friday that a ceasefire agreed by Russia and Turkey has gone into effect in Syria's north-western Idlib region.

The halt in fighting was agreed amid growing concerns about an emerging proxy war between Turkey, which supports certain rebel groups in Syria's multi-sided civil war, and Russia, the main military backer of the Syrian state.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shortly after midnight that cautious calm was prevailing on major fronts in Idlib.

Shortly before midnight, airstrikes by Russian warplanes and shelling by government forces was targeting the countryside of Idlib and areas in the western countryside of Hama, according to activists and the Observatory.

A Turkish drone also struck Syrian government forces posts in the countryside of Idlib, the Observatory added.

According to the agreement, unveiled by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Turkey and Russia agreed upon three points.

The countries agreed to cease all military actions along the line of contact in Idlib's de-escalation zone from 00:01 on 6 March.

They agreed to establish a six-kilometre-wide security corridor along the M4 highway connecting Latakia with northern Syria. They said their defence ministers would agree on the parameters of the corridor within a week.

And they agreed to establish joint Turkish-Russian patrols along the highway on 15 March, stretching from the Trumba settlement just west of the strategic town of Saraqeb, to the Ain al-Havr settlement.

Earlier this month, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad captured Saraqeb, which lies on the intersection of the M4 and M5 highways, one of many major urban areas to fall to Damascus since December.

The M4 highway connects Saraqeb with Latakia, while the M5, Syria's longest highway, connects Aleppo city to the capital Damascus and continues south to the Jordanian border.

'Turkey will not remain silent'

Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the transatlantic Nato alliance, entered the region in recent weeks to resist the Syrian government's advance on Idlib in the name of avoiding a wave of refugees at its southern border.

Turkey hosts about 3.6 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot handle more. To extract more funding and support from Europe over Idlib, Ankara said it would not abide by a 2016 deal in which it stopped migrants crossing into the European Union in return for billions of euros in aid.

The fighting has killed 60 Turkish troops since early February and raised the prospect of a direct clash between Russia and Turkey, which operate on opposing sides of the front lines.

Erdogan told reporters that Turkey would not "remain silent" to attacks by Syrian government forces, and warned Ankara would "retaliate with all its strength" despite the new ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the ceasefire would lead to an "immediate and lasting cessation of hostilities."

The war in Syria, now approaching its ninth year, has devastated much of the country. An estimated half a million people have been killed and millions have been forced to live as refugees.


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