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Turkey, Russia agree to establish observation posts in Idlib

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) [File photo, Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to establish more observation posts around the north-western province of Idlib, Syrian news agency Zaman Al Wasl reports.

A source in Erdogan's palace revealed yesterday that the two leaders spoke over the phone and agreed to the measure, as Syrian regime and Russian forces continue to bombard the opposition-held province.

Both presidents also emphasised the importance of Tuesday's Russian-sponsored conference on the conflict in Syria, despite problems at the meeting that ended this week.

Despite a concluding statement calling for democratic elections, the talks were criticised for ignoring key opposition demands, after a day marred by squabbles and heckling of the Russian foreign minister. The event had also been boycotted by the leadership of the Syrian opposition, whilst the US, Britain and France refused to attend the negotiations because of what they said was the Syrian government's refusal to properly engage.

Read: Turkey negotiating with Assad regime 'out of question'

Erdogan reportedly also shared details on Turkey's incursion into Syria, as Turkish forces continue to move further into the Afrin region, taking numerous towns from US-backed Kurdish militias.

Last week it was revealed that Moscow had withdrawn its forces from the north of the country, as Ankara started its aerial and ground invasion. However, in a later statement, Russia condemned the move and said that it would demand the UN force Turkey to halt its military operation.

Turkey and Russia have regularly cooperated on the issue of Syria, representing the opposition and the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad respectively. Alongside Iran, they convened the Astana negotiations during which they agreed to establish de-escalation zones to stem the bloodshed in the seven-year conflict. However the agreement is regularly violated by forces allied to the regime, with Idlib province and the suburb of Eastern Ghouta subject to an intensified assault by regime forces in recent months.

Earlier this week, Russian air strikes on the north western Syrian province of Idlib killed over 33 people, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Most of the dead were in the town of Saraqib, where a secondary attack was also launched on a local hospital where the wounded from an initial airstrike had been transferred.

Last month the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, expressed concerns about the situation in Idlib and Ghouta, calling on their de-escalation statuses to be respected.

Read: Turkish offensive on Afrin cuts fuel supply to 2 million in Idlib

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