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Ceasefire declared in Idlib with Russia and Turkey announcing differing start dates

Turkey and Russia have announced a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province but provided different starting dates for the truce whilst airstrikes also continued.

Russia declared a ceasefire between warring sides in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province starting from 14.00 Moscow time (1100 GMT) on Thursday, state-run TASS news agency quoted General Yuri Borenkov, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, as saying.

However, airstrike attacks by pro-regime forces were reported on Friday in the town of Maaret Al-Numan.

On Friday, Turkey’s defense ministry issued a statement, saying the ceasefire would actually take effect as of Sunday.

Since April 2019, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have intensified attacks on Idlib, the last rebel-held swathe of territory.

Turkey has been backing Syrian rebels fighting against the al-Assad regime, holding a number of military outposts there in their support.

Although several ceasefires had been previously declared between the warring sides, they failed to hold each time.

The latest ceasefire came after a Turkish delegation paid a visit to Moscow last month, requesting a ceasefire in the province.

Turkey is concerned about a new influx of people uprooted by the violence. According to the United Nations (UN), as many as 300,000 Syrians are believed to have been displaced in December alone due to the intensified offensive in the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in December that Turkey, home already to some 3.6 million Syrians who have sought shelter, cannot accept more refugees from the war-torn Idlib, where up to three million people live.

The UN said many Syrians in Idlib are completely in need of cross-border aid, while Moscow had repeatedly vetoed humanitarian assistance at the UN.

Conditions in southern Idlib were dire and were made even worse by the deliberate targeting by the al-Assad forces on hospitals, Kenan Rahmani from the Syria Campaign said.

The civil war which erupted in 2011 has led to the killing of more than 370,000 people in the country.

The death toll is 11,215 people, including more than 1,000 children, in 2019 alone, marking the least-deadly year on record since the beginning of the civil war.

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