The leaders of Turkey and Russian Federation have agreed to create a "demilitarised zone" around Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday after lengthy talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey, which supplies the province with aid and keeps hundreds of its soldiers in the province, has said a full-scale assault on Idlib would send as many as 2 million refugees across its southern border, as well as jihadis who could then move on to Europe.
"By Oct 10, at the suggestion of the Turkish president, (we agreed) on the withdrawal from that zone of the heavy weapons, tanks, rockets systems and mortars of all opposition groups", Putin said, with Erdogan standing alongside him.
"We have made a decision to create a demilitarised zone some 15 to 20 kilometres deep along the line of contact between the armed opposition and regime troops by 15 October of this year", he said.
Russian and Turkish military police would then carry out coordinated patrols of the zone - which would be 12 miles deep - from October 15, Mr Putin said.
"Hope at long last for 3 million Syrian civilians in Idleb [sic]: Russian Federation and Turkey agree on plan that may avert horrific war among displaced people", Egeland wrote on Twitter.
Ramadan also said the deal offers the Syrian government and Russian Federation one of their main demands, which is securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links northern Syria with other cities. There are about 3 million civilians in Idlib.
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It is not even clear that the areas of Idlib excluded from the demilitarised zone will be open to Russian assault.
The UN said more than 30,000 people have already been displaced inside Syria by airstrikes on Idlib in recent weeks.
"The opposition will continue to remain in the areas where they are present".
He said that the most important issue of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 17 will be Idlib.
Ankara is ready to take joint steps with Moscow against terrorists in Syria's Idlib, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
"In order to give people in Idlib peace of mind then, this agreement needs to be built upon by the global powers working together to find a lasting political solution that protects civilians", Bramwell said. Finishing off the Idlib rebels would take him closer to victory, help secure Aleppo from attack and open roads to the coast and Damascus.
"A head-on attack against [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] now or later would likely destabilize northwest [Syria], prompt a bloody and maybe inconclusive fight, and potentially set off retaliatory attacks inside Turkey", said Sam Heller, a senior analyst on non-state armed groups at the International Crisis Group in Brussels.