The Kremlin says a deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, which aims to create a demilitarized zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib and has so far held off a government offensive on the last major terrorist stronghold in the country, was going ahead, despite foreign-sponsored militants failing to leave the zone the day before.
“According to the information we are receiving from our military, the memorandum is being implemented and the military are satisfied with the way the Turkish side is working,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
“Of course one cannot expect everything to go smoothly with absolutely no glitches, but the work is being carried out,” he added.
Under a deal reached following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on September 17, all militants in the demilitarized zone, which surrounds Idlib and also parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo and Hama, must pull out heavy arms by Wednesday, and Takfiri groups must withdraw by October 15.
The National Front for the Liberation of Syria is the main Turkish-backed militant alliance in the Idlib region, but the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits, largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, holds a large part of the province and the zone.
The HTS, which is said to be in control of some 60 percent of Idlib province, has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.
It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 members of different factions of armed groups, which Syria, Russia and Turkey consider terrorists, are active in the volatile province, which is home to around three million inhabitants.
Russia believes that a buffer zone would help stop attacks from Idlib-based militants on Syrian army positions and Russia's military bases in the flashpoint region.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.