Under a deal reached last fall, on Friday Turkey and Russia will begin patrols in and around the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, according to Turkey’s national defense minister.
“Today, Russia will begin patrols in the border area outside of Idlib while Turkish Armed Forces patrols will start in the demilitarized zone," Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk.
The deal last September set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib and other areas, but the Syrian regime has repeatedly violated the cease-fire in Idlib, Akar added.
Maintaining the cease-fire in Idlib is a significant step for securing stability in Syria, he said.
Akar also stressed that Turkey purchasing S-400 missile defense systems from Russia is "not a choice but a necessity."
Starting this October, the S-400 systems will be installed in Turkey, he said, adding that the Turkish Air Forces are studying where to deploy the missiles.
After repeated efforts to buy missile defense from the U.S., and finding no success, in 2017 Ankara decided to buy the Russian S-400 systems.
The move was criticized by the Pentagon, which warned that purchasing the S-400 would hurt Turkish-U.S. ties as well as Turkey's role in NATO. U.S. officials also said U.S. Patriots might serve as an alternative.
But Turkish officials have repeatedly said even if Turkey bought the U.S. Patriots, it would not cancel the S-400 deal, which it committed to.
Contacts with Syrian regime 'out of the question'
Akar also said Turkish policy towards neighboring countries, especially Iraq and Syria, is based on their territorial and political sovereignty.
He called Turkey holding contacts with the Syrian regime "out of the question," but pointed out that Ankara has been holding talks with Moscow and occasionally Tehran on the situation in Syria.
Turkey has never had any problems with the Kurdish population or other ethnicities in Syria, as its army only strikes at terrorist nests, he explained.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.