Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria's Idlib province

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi Russia on Sept 17 2018

Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria's Idlib province

Russian Federation said on Monday there will be no new military operation against rebels in Idlib by Syrian government forces and their allies after president Vladimir Putin met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

'We have made a decision to create a demilitarised zone some 15 to 20 kilometres deep along the line of contact between the armed opposition and regime troops by October 15 of this year, ' President Vladimir Putin said after more than four hours of talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"By Oct. 10, at the suggestion of the Turkish president, (we agreed) on the withdrawal from that zone of the heavy weapons, tanks, rockets systems and mortars of all opposition groups", Putin said, with Erdogan standing alongside him.

The zone will be established by October 15 and be 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep, President Vladimir Putin said at the end of a more than three-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there will be no new military operation on Idlib by Syrian government forces and their allies, Russia's Interfax news agency reported. "We will ensure that radical groups will not operate in the area", he said.

This photo, released September 10 by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows smoke rising from a Syrian government airstrike, in Hobeit village, near Idlib.

Putin said the demilitarized zone would be enforced by patrols of Turkish forces and Russian military police. The most powerful is Tahrir al-Sham, an amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra Front - an al Qaeda affiliate until 2016.

Turkey has repeatedly called for a ceasefire to avert a possible attack. Shoigu was speaking after the Russian and Turkish presidents agreed on the creation of the zone in the troubled Syrian region.

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"Let's all take steps, measures together against the terror groups among the opposition in Idlib", Erdogan said.

Although Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will not be present, Ghasemi said Tehran is continuing discussions with both countries as well as Damascus. He had previously warned of a surge in refugees hitting the country should a full-blown war break out in Idlib.

Since the beginning of September, dozens of people have been killed and injured in air raids and attacks by the Syrian government and Russian fighter jets, according to activists on the ground.

Among the Russian delegation are Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

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The civilian and fighter population of the province has been swollen by a series of surrender deals imposed by the regime after recapturing other areas of Syria, under which rebels and residents who refused to submit to government authority were sent to Idlib. Turkey, however, has criticized the Assad government for using the presence of jihadists as pretext for a potential onslaught.

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