The leaders of Turkey and Russia have agreed to a ceasefire deal in Syria’s Idlib region after talks in Moscow to contain a conflict that has displaced nearly a million people in three months.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, standing next to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, said he hoped their agreement would lead to a halt of military action in Syria’s last major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.
“I express a hope that these agreements will serve as a good basis for a cessation of military activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone (and) stop the suffering of the peaceful population and the growing humanitarian crisis,” Putin said.
Erdogan told reporters that the truce would come into effect at midnight on Thursday. “We will work together to supply aid for the Syrians in need,” he said, adding that Turkey retained the right “to respond to all (Syrian) regime attacks in the field.”
Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backing some rebel groups. Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed.
The latest offensive in Idlib by Assad’s forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, sparked what the United Nations says may be the worst humanitarian crisis yet in a war that has driven millions from their homes and killed hundreds of thousands.
Russia also raced to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before the Putin-Erdogan talks.