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Turkey kills 21 Syrian troops as cease-fire with Russia signed

Turkey kills 21 Syrian troops as cease-fire with Russia signed
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) attend a joint news conference following their cease-fire talks in the Kremlin in Moscow. Turkey said Friday it killed 21 Syrian soldiers in an airstrike. Photo by Michael Klimentyev/EPA-EFE

March 6 (UPI) -- Drone strikes in Idlib killed 21 Syrian soldiers in fighting as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a cease-fire in the area, Turkey's defense ministry said Friday.

Turkey said the strikes were in retaliation for a Syrian attack that killed a Turkish soldier. Turkey had ramped up its attack on Russian-backed Syrian forces Sunday after Syrian airstrikes killed 34 Turkish fighters.

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The defense ministry said it also destroyed two Syrian artillery pieces and two missile launchers.

Idlib is the final stronghold of Syrian opposition forces, a group the Syrian government has referred to as terrorists. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday Syria has the right to eliminate terrorists in the country.

Russian state media said its officials and Turkish leaders spent six hours working on a cease-fire agreement. The two agreed to establish a security corridor near the important M4 highway, which will be patrolled by Russian and Turkish forces.

The cease-fire, which started at midnight Friday, is a positive development in Russia-Turkey relations that had taken a hit of late. Turkey, a NATO ally, had called on the United States and other Western members for assistance in its conflict with Syria. Russia this week accused Turkey of breaking international law in Idlib.

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