October 10, 2018 / 2:10 PM / in 11 days

Demilitarised zone around Syria's Idlib set up, Turkey says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s defence ministry said on Wednesday the demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib has been formed and heavy weapons have been withdrawn, following an agreement by Russian and Turkish leaders in Sochi last month.

The agreement dictated that heavy weapons, tanks, rocket systems and mortars of all opposition groups would be withdrawn by Oct. 10, and the zone will be monitored by coordinated Turkish and Russian patrols.

Under the deal agreed last month between Turkey and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ally Moscow, “radical” rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of this month from the zone, and heavy weaponry must be withdrawn from the 15-20 km buffer zone by Oct. 10.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday over 1,000 militants had left the zone.

Asked about Turkish reports that all heavy weapons had been removed, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters that around 100 heavy weapon units had been withdrawn from the zone, but gave no further details.

The main jihadist group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, has yet to comment publicly on the agreement.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow, Writing by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Dominic Evans

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