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Turkey says ceasefire will be implemented in Syria's Idlib in January

Debris of buildings are seen after airstrikes carried out by Assad Regime over Saraqib district in the de-escalation zone of Idlib, Syria on December 21, 2019. Airstrikes killed 8 civilians and injured 20 others. [Hüseyin Fazıl/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey's Defence Ministry said on Friday that it had agreed with Russia that a ceasefire will be implemented on Sunday in northwestern Syria's Idlib region to stem the flow of civilians uprooted by the violence, Reuters reports.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled attacks in Idlib province toward the Turkish border in recent weeks, as towns and villages have been pounded by Russian jets and Syrian artillery since a renewed government assault last month.

Turkey's defence ministry said attacks by air and land would halt at one minute past midnight on January 12 under the ceasefire, which Ankara has been seeking for several weeks.

The announcement came a day after a Russian defence ministry official was quoted as saying that a ceasefire had already been implemented at 1100 GMT on Thursday, in line with agreements with Turkey.

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Some 3.6 million Syrians have sought shelter in Turkey from their country's nearly nine year-old civil war. President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey cannot carry the burden of more refugees from Idlib, where up to 3 million people live.

Many Syrians still in Idlib are completely dependent on cross-border aid, according to the United Nations, but a six-year-long United Nations operation delivering supplies will expire at midnight on Friday if a deadlocked UN Security Council cannot reach a last-minute deal to extend its authorisation.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has vowed to recapture Idlib, the last rebel-held swathe of territory. Turkey has for years backed Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad.

READ: Four Turkish soldiers killed in northeast Syria bomb attack

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