Turkey rejects Syria’s accusations over Idlib deal

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Turkey on Tuesday rejected Syrian government accusations that it is not meeting its obligations under an agreement to create a demilitarized zone around the rebel-held Idlib region, saying the deal was being implemented as planned, Reuters reported.

The agreement forged in September between Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, staved off a major government offensive in the opposition-held region in northwest Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after a four-way summit on Syria with Turkey, Germany and France on Saturday that Ankara was fulfilling its obligations in Idlib, which with adjacent areas is the last stronghold of the anti-Assad insurgency.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in comments reported late on Monday that Turkey appeared unwilling to implement the deal.

“The terrorists still exist with their heavy arms in this region, and this is an indicator of Turkey’s unwillingness to fulfill its obligations,” Moualem said in Damascus, according to the official news agency SANA.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dismissed the allegations on Tuesday, saying the agreement was continuing as planned. “There are currently no issues in implementing the memorandum. … Everything is going as planned,” Çavuşoğlu told a news conference in İstanbul.

Speaking to members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said on Tuesday that Turkey would ensure a more active international role in Idlib after the summit.

The Syrian government has vowed to recover “every inch” of Syria, including the Idlib region.

The Turkish-Russian agreement established a buffer zone running 15 to 20 kilometers (9-13 miles) deep into rebel territory that was to be free of heavy weapons and jihadists by mid-October.

The main jihadist group in the northwest, Tahrir al-Sham, gave a nod of approval to the Turkish agreement but without explicitly saying it would abide by it.

The United Nations warned that any major offensive in the Idlib region would cause a humanitarian catastrophe. The region is home to around 3 million people.

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