Iran hails Russia-Turkey agreement to avoid Idlib onslaught
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Iran hails Russia-Turkey agreement to avoid Idlib onslaught

Foreign minister says deal to create demilitarized zone around the opposition bastion is an example of ‘responsible diplomacy’

Syrians from the rebel-held northern city of Idlib and its surrounding towns wave opposition flags and chant slogans as they gather for an anti-government demonstration in Idlib on September 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)
Syrians from the rebel-held northern city of Idlib and its surrounding towns wave opposition flags and chant slogans as they gather for an anti-government demonstration in Idlib on September 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)

Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on Syria’s last major rebel stronghold in Idlib province as an example of “responsible diplomacy.”

After more than four hours of negotiations in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey agreed to create a demilitarized zone around the opposition bastion.

“Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks … is succeeding to avert war in Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“Diplomacy works,” he added, pointing to his visits to Ankara and Damascus as well as a three-way summit between the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey earlier this month.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens during a meeting between the Iranian president and the North Korean foreign minister in the capital Tehran on August 8, 2018 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Asked at a news conference Tuesday whether Iran was consulted about the Sochi decision, Zarif said: “Yes, Iran has always been at the center of consultations,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

Tehran and Moscow are key supporters of President Bashar Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war, while Ankara backs opposition fighters seeking the ouster of the Syrian leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Monday to create a 15-20 kilometer-wide buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by October 15.

This picture taken in Kafr Ain on September 7, 2018, shows smoke rising as government forces target the city, 4 kilometers east of Khan Sheikhoun in the southern countryside of Idlib province. (AFP Photo/Anas Al-Dyab)

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said.

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