Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria's Idlib province

Syrian health sector workers hold banners during a rally in the village of Atmeh in the northern Idlib province demanding that hospitals be protected in the case of an upcoming offensive

Russia and Turkey have chose to set up a demilitarized zone between the armed opposition and the government troops in Syria's Idlib province by October 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said on Monday they had agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Syria's Idlib province to separate Syrian regime troops from opposition forces, with Turkish and Russian soldiers patrolling the zone to ensure it is respected.

Putin said Moscow and Ankara agreed to create a 15-20 km demilitarised zone between rebels and Syrian government forces by 15 October.

Erdogan said the measures would "prevent a humanitarian crisis".

There are an estimated 60,000 rebel fighters in Idlib and its surrounding areas. At the same time, both Turkey and the West support various militant groups they consider as "moderate" opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

Hassoun, the rebel military representative at the Astana negotiations, was openly pleased that the plan allows rebels to remain in control of Idlib.

Erdogan and Putin met previously on September 7 in Tehran for a three-way summit with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that saw the Russian and Turkish leaders openly disagree over how to deal with the rebel stronghold, which borders Turkey. With Turkish backing, they are now gathered under "the National Front for Liberation".

"Russia will surely take necessary precautions to ensure the Idlib de-escalation zone is not attacked".

"After proving its influence in Syria and the Middle East, Russia wants to pull Turkey away from the West much more than achieve a military victory over the armed Syrian opposition", said Mustafa Ellabbad, an expert on Turkish-Arab relations.

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Syrian health sector workers hold opposition flags and roses as in the village of Atmeh in the northern Idlib province, during a rally demanding that hospitals be protected in the case of an upcoming offensive, on Monday.

Putin also said he believed the agreement would also go some way in ending Syria's bloody seven-year civil war.

In the provincial capital, Idlib city, and in towns including Kafranbel, Dana, Azaz, Maaret al-Numan and al-Bab, demonstrators filled the streets after noon prayers and chanted against Assad, raising the tri-color green, white and black flag that has become the banner of Syria's 2011 uprising, activists said.

Putin told Erdogan in opening remarks carried by Russian news agencies that he and Erdogan will be "looking for solutions where there are none right now", without mentioning Idlib by name.

Thousands of foreign fighters, from China, Europe and the Middle East, are the backbone of the militant groups.

Making a rare video appearance in late August, HTS leader Abu Mohammed al Golani vowed to fight Assad's forces and said Turkish observation points were no protection.

The precise details of the agreement between Turkey and Russian Federation were not publicly spelled out Monday.

"The situation in Idlib has been calm for three days".

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