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article imageRussia and Turkey to operate joint patrols on Syria's M4 highway

By Ken Hanly     Mar 15, 2020 in World
According to the Turkish Ministry of Defense, troops from Russia and Turkey will start conducting joint patrols along M4 highway in Syria in Idlib province. This was agreed to as part of the recent Idlib ceasefire deal.
The announcement
Hulusi Akar,
the Turkish Minister of Defense made his announcement following four days of talks in Ankara the Turkish capital dealing with the technicalities of the ceasefire reached last week. The ceasefire by Russia and Turkey who support opposing sides in the conflict had called for a security corridor along the key M4 highway that will allow Syria access to the province of Latakia from Aleppo as the highway passes through territory held by rebels. The minister said that a well as joint patrols there will be joint coordination centers for Idlib but did not provide any further specifics. The deal requires that rebels withdraw from south of the highway and both sides commit to not attacking each other.
Background
A recent offensive has led to Assad forces capturing considerable ground from the rebels. The Turks sent reinforcements to help the embattled rebels many of whom are radical jihadists linked to Al Qaeda. As a result the Turks came into conflict with Assad forces who were supported by Russian air operations. A number of Turkish troops were killed leading to Turkish retaliatory attacks. The Assad forces were able to open the long closed M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus. However, parts of another main highway M4 remained under rebel control.
The Turks have threatened more actions should Syria violate the ceasefire but so far the ceasefire has held. The joint patrols will no doubt help the situation to remain peaceful.
Some demonstrations against the ceasefire terms
A number of people in the town of Ariha on the M4 highway said they reject the patrols by what they call Russian occupiers on the road according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an activist. The Observatory said those gathered were protesting by setting up tents on the highway to prevent the opening of the road. The road has been closed since 2012. Ariha is held by rebels. The parts of the highway under government control have been cleared with the removal of any blocks or barriers. The highway is a main link from neighboring Iraq through Syria to the Mediterranean.
More about Russia in Syria, Turkey in Syria, Idlib ceasefire
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