Russia demands Turkey do more in Syria’s Idlib region

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) attend a press conference after meeting in Tehran on September 7, 2018. AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV

Russia has demanded that Turkey do more to tackle hardcore fighters in Syria’s Idlib province and fulfil promises it made as part of a deal with Moscow last year, Al Jazeera reported.

Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, and Russia, the Syrian government’s principal foreign ally, agreed in September to create a demilitarized zone in the northwest Idlib region that would be cleared of all heavy weapons and hardline fighters.

Ankara pledged to disarm and remove the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham militants dominating there, according to the deal, which prevented the Russia-backed Syrian government from launching a major military operation in the region to remove the group once affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the situation in Idlib was rapidly deteriorating and that Tahrir al-Sham was trying to seize control of the entire area.

“Given the extremely difficult situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, we expect our Turkish partners to activate their efforts to ultimately turn the tide and to fully carry out the obligations they took upon themselves,” Zakharova said in a statement.

The comments came with Russian President Vladimir Putin due to meet with the leaders of Turkey and Iran next week at a summit in the southern Russian city of Sochi, where they are expected to discuss Syria again.

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