Russia and Turkey cut short first joint patrol in Idlib

Istanbul/Moscow (dpa) - Russia and Turkey began joint patrols on Sunday along the key strategic highway which dissects Idlib, Syria's last rebel-held region, but Moscow said the patrol was cut short following a "provocation" by Ankara-backed rebels.

The first Russian-Turkish patrol took place along the M4 east-west highway on Sunday, both country's Defence Ministries confirmed.
In a statement, the Russian Defence Ministry accused the rebels of trying to use civilians, among them women and children, as "human shields."
Turkey's Defence Ministry made no mention of any incident.
The first armoured vehicles reportedly set out from near Trumba, a settlement two kilometres to the west of the strategically important city of Saraqib, Russian news agencies reported.
Russia and Turkey, each backing opposing sides in Syria's civil war, agreed to a ceasefire earlier this month, establishing a secure corridor along the M4 highway running through the last of the country's remaining rebel-held territory.
The two countries also agreed on "joint coordination centres" to monitor the ceasefire, which appears to be holding in most places in the embattled Idlib province.
A recent military onslaught by Russia-backed Syrian forces in Idlib had brought Ankara, which backs some rebels, to the brink of open confrontation with Moscow and dozens of Turkish troops were killed.
The escalation had displaced 1 million people in Idlib, near the Turkish border.
Sunday is the ninth anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. On March 15, 2011, mass protests against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reached the capital Damascus and Aleppo.

Sunday, March 15th 2020

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