Civilians to remain in Syria's Idlib, Turkish FM says
Mevlut Cavusoglu says there would be no change in status of Syria's Idlib after deal signed by Turkey, Russia
By Diyar Guldogan
Civilians will continue to remain in Syria's northwestern Idlib province following a deal signed by Ankara and Moscow that seals a demilitarized zone in the area, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.
"The borders of Idlib will be protected under the memorandum of understanding signed in Sochi. There would be no change in the status of Idlib," Cavusoglu said at a news conference after the quadruple ministerial meeting in the capital Ankara.
Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his colleague Trade Minister Tareq Hammouri met in Ankara to assess the Turkey-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Cavusoglu's remarks came a day after Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a demilitarized zone between the opposition and the regime-controlled areas after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia's coastal city of Sochi.
Ankara and Moscow on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the stabilization of the situation in Idlib's de-escalation zone.
The minister said citizens would continue to remain in Idlib.
Cavusoglu said heavy weapons will be removed from demilitarized zone in Idlib, adding: "Civilians will stay, only terrorist groups will be removed."
He added heavy weapons will be removed from demilitarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.
Putin on Monday said Russia and Turkey had decided to establish a demilitarized area, which will extend 15 to 20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep into Idlib. Such groups as the al-Nusra Front are to be withdrawn from the area.
Cavusoglu said: "This area will be cleared of certain heavy weapons such as tanks and rocker launchers, but some small arms in the hands of moderate opposition groups will remain."
He added that Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols along the zone's perimeter, saying: "Of course, we have to deploy here additional soldiers. Also, our 12 observation points [in Idlib] will remain."
Cavusoglu added the region would be cleared off from "radicals" and cease-fire would be ensured.
He added Russia will take necessary measures to protect de-escalation zone in Idlib.
The minister also said two main highways [Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama routes] in Syria will be re-opened for traffic by the end of 2018.
"This is important for all Syrian people. It is also important to transfer the goods that the people in the region produce, to the other regions," Cavusoglu added.