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Russia and Turkey agree to cease-fire in Syria's Idlib

Russia and Turkey agree to cease-fire in Syria's Idlib
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) agreed to a cease-fire in Syrian Idlib starting from midnight Friday. Photo by Michael Klimentyev/EPA-EFE/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool 

March 5 (UPI) -- Turkey and Russia agreed Thursday to a cease-fire in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib starting at midnight.

The two countries reached the agreement during a meeting Thursday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin after fighting in Idlib, the last remaining stronghold of groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, intensified earlier this week.

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The cease-fire "to stop all hostilities along the existing line of contact" in Syria is expected to start at midnight Friday, a press statement said.

A security corridor about 4 miles wide will be established in the area with both countries' military forces having a week to work out all the details. Military forces will also carry out joint patrol missions along Idlib's M-4 highway.

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Erdogan and Putin agreed that Syria's conflict has no military solution and it is up to Syria alone to decide its fate. Both leaders also agreed to work together on efforts to prevent the humanitarian crisis in Idlib and create conditions for refugees to return home.

Recent attacks have included Russian airstrikes overnight that killed more than a dozen civilians and injured at least 20 other people. Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, said the attacks hit a shelter for displaced persons near Ma'rat Masrin in Idlib province. Thirteen people were also killed Wednesday, including seven children, from airstrikes and shelling targeting several cities in Idlib and the Aleppo area, the White Helmets said.

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Erdogan told reporters Thursday in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart that the Syrian regime and its aggressiveness are the main reason for civilian suffering in Idlib.

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"Considering all the recent developments, a new status quo is inevitable in Idlib," Erdogan said. "We have deployed additional military units to Syria to ensure regional stability. Our priority is to enable deescalation in Idlib. The cease-fire will begin tonight a minute after midnight."

"We have always solved our problems by working together," Putin said. "Today was no different."

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