An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”
According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarised zone in Idlib from which “radical” rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.
‘Withdrawal in October’
Speaking alongside Erdogan, Putin said the 15-20km-wide zone would be established by October 15.
This would entail a “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the once al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
Putin said that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from all opposition forces by October 10 – a move supported by the Syrian government.
For his part, Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarised zone.
“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime,” said Erdogan.
“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area,” he added.