|Date: Mar 15, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Turkey, Russia eye closer coordination on Syria|
|Agence France Presse|
ISTANBUL: Turkey and Russia are discussing a "coordination center" to better manage their operations in Syria's rebel-controlled Idlib province, Turkey's defense minister said.
Regime ally Russia and Turkey, which supports rebels, have been on opposite sides in the Syrian war.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin have been working closely to end the fighting. A Russian-Turkish deal for a demilitarized zone last year protected the Idlib rebel bastion.
The two countries and Ankara are already preparing joint patrols around the northwestern Syrian region.
"We are working on a joint coordination center," Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said after a meeting Wednesday, according to a ministry statement Thursday.
His remarks came as Russian jets carried out airstrikes in Idlib on Wednesday, the first such attacks since the Turkish-Russian deal was signed in September as a way to prevent major bloodshed.
At least 13 civilians, including six infants were killed in the raids, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group that relies on sources inside Syria.
Earlier this month, Turkey said its forces and Russians would begin ground patrols around Idlib province as part of their cease-fire deal.
Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
HTS in January took control of the administration of Idlib's region where three million people have been protected.
A Turkish-backed National Liberation Front controls part of the rebel stronghold.
The Russian-Turkish agreement was supposed to see hardline militants withdraw from Idlib but they never did.
The cease-fire has held except for sporadic bombardments and skirmishes, avoiding an all-out Syrian military assault.