Russia and Turkey have announced a ceasefire in Syria‘s Idlib province, paving the way for a pause in continuing government-led bombardment in the country’s last rebel-held stronghold, while allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“According to the agreements with the Turkish side, the ceasefire regime was introduced in the Idlib de-escalation zone starting from 14:00 Moscow time (11:00 GMT) on January 9, 2020,” Russian Major-General Yury Borenkov was quoted as saying.
Turkey had asked Russia to establish a ceasefire in the region and it sent its delegation to Moscow in December to discuss the issue.
That month, the Syrian government and allied Russians launched a large-scale campaign against rebels in Idlib.
As the offensive intensified, in December alone, almost 300,000 people fled to safer areas towards Turkey from southern Idlib, according to the United Nations.
Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Ankara, said Turkey has been pushing and calling for the ceasefire, in part because it is already under enormous strain from the influx of Syrian refugees already within its border.
“This agreement is significant because it will not only stem the flow of refugees from Idlib but will also allow for much-needed aid by humanitarian organisations to reach desperate people inside that Syrian city.”
Kenan Rahmani of the Syria Campaign, said “conditions are dire” in southern Idlib, and were made worse by the “deliberate targeting” by the Assad government on hospitals.
He also pointed out that Russia had repeatedly vetoed humanitarian aid at the UN.
“The ceasefire, we hope it will stay,” he said, adding that previous ceasefire deals were broken, with the “regime continuing its brutal military onslaught. We hope this time will be different.”
The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
In total, 11,215 people – including more than 1,000 children – were killed in 2019, the least-deadly year on record since the beginning of the conflict.