Turkey to patrol north, Russians south of M4 highway in Idlib: Minister
Turkey’s military will patrol to the north of a security corridor being set up around a highway in northwest Syria’s Idlib province and Russian forces will patrol the southern side, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 10.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, he recalled that Turkish and Russian military delegations would start negotiations on March 10 on the issue of parameters for the functioning of the security corridor 6 kilometers deep to the north and 6 km deep to the south from the M4 highway in the war-torn country’s last rebel bastion.
Çavuşoğlu said Russia would ensure that Syrian government forces do not try to enter the corridor along the M4 and that Turkey-backed rebels would remain in place.
Besides the talks on the security corridor of the strategic M4 highway, Ankara and Moscow would continue dialogue to set a permeant ceasefire in Idlib, he noted.
“Now we work on to make this cease-fire permanent,” Çavuşoğlu said.
"If the Assad regime tries to proceed heedless of cease-fire in Idlib, Turkish forces will do as they have done before," the minister said.
He also said there had been a small violation of the ceasefire by Syrian government forces on Monday and that the Russians had sent them a strong warning.
Agreement on the corridor was part of a ceasefire deal reached by Turkey and Russia last week to halt a conflict in Idlib which displaced nearly a million people in three months and created the risk of a military clash between Turkey and Russia.
Under the agreement, joint Turkish-Russian patrols were to begin along the highway itself on March 15. It was not clear what would happen to the pocket of rebels which it will create to the south of the highway.
He also said the United States had offered land, sea and air intelligence regarding Idlib over the escalation in the rebel stronghold.
Çavuşoğlu added that Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 defense systems was not an obstacle to Ankara deploying U.S. Patriot systems, which were Washington's to offer them.
He said the Patriot systems could be deployed by any NATO member state, not necessarily the U.S.
Elaborating on a Russian state TV broadcast of a video allegedly showing Turkey’s president being kept waiting by his Russian counterpart before a meeting last week, Çavuşoğlu also said Russian officials contacted Ankara that the report does not display Moscow’s position.