ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Friday it had agreed with Russia that a cease-fire will be implemented Sunday in northwestern Syria’s Idlib region to stem the flow of civilians uprooted by the violence. 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 Defense Ministry said attacks by air and land would halt at one minute past midnight on Jan. 12 under the cease-fire, which Ankara has been seeking for several weeks.
The announcement came a day after a Russian Defense Ministry official was quoted as saying that a cease-fire had already been implemented at 1100 GMT Thursday, in line with agreements with Turkey.
Some 3.6 million Syrians have sought shelter in Turkey from their country’s nearly 9-year-old civil war. President Recep 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 U.N., but a 6-year-long U.N. operation delivering supplies will expire at midnight Friday if a deadlocked U.N. Security Council cannot reach a last-minute deal to extend its authorization.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has vowed to recapture Idlib, the last rebel-held swath of territory.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2020, on page 5.