Russia and Turkey have agreed on borders of a demilitarised zone in northern Syria around Idlib, Moscow's top diplomat says
Sarajevo (AFP) - Russia and Turkey have agreed on borders of a demilitarised zone in northern Syria, Russia's top diplomat said Friday, part of a deal that could check an assault on the last rebel enclave in Idlib.
"Just yesterday or the day before, the militaries of Russia and Turkey agreed the concrete frontiers of the demilitarised zone," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak.
Moscow says the demilitarised zone would help stop attacks from Idlib on Syrian army positions and Russia's military bases in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed the establishment of the 15 to 20 kilometre (9.3-12 miles) buffer zone on Monday after talks that lasted more than four hours.
Security in the zone, which includes parts of Idlib and neighbouring provinces including the city of Aleppo, will be overseen by Turkish contingents and Russian military police.
The agreement will prevent military action against the city of Idlib, Russia's defence minister said.
"It's an intermediate step... but a necessary step," Lavrov said of the zone.
"By mid-October, all (fighters of the Al-Nusra Front) must leave this demilitarised zone, and all heavy military equipment must be pulled out of there," he said.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, helping the Syrian government establish control over most of the country's territory after intervening in the multi-front conflict in 2015.
Turkey, however, backs opposition fighters seeking to oust the Syrian leader. It has said a large-scale offensive against the rebels could trigger a mass exodus towards its border.
Turkey has asked France to help "consolidate" the agreement within the UN Security Council, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the daily Le Monde in its edition to appear on Saturday.
Le Drian said that international pressure and warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis in Idlib had proven effective in checking an all-out assault by the Syrian regime.
The Russian-Turkish accord could be validated by a resolution or declaration by the Security Council, which includes France among its permanent members, a French diplomatic source said, adding that talks in that direction were now underway in New York.