Turkey has set up a new observation point in the Syrian northwestern province of Idlib as part of an agreement with the other two guarantors of the Syria ceasefire, Iran and Russia.

The outpost, located nearly 70 kilometers from the Turkish border, is run by a small number of Turkish troops monitoring any armed confrontations among the warring sides in Syria, state-run news agency Anadolu reported on Thursday.

A convoy of Turkish military forces crossed the Turkey-Syria border on Wednesday night to be stationed at the outpost, the report said.

Idlib is under the control of anti-government militants, predominantly the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. It is one of the last main strongholds of Takfiri militants who have been driven from most of their bastions across Syria in recent years.

This is the sixth Turkish observation point in Idlib since October. The outposts in Idlib are part of a plan to establish four de-escalation zones in Syria. The plan was agreed after several rounds of peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

The other three de-escalation zones include the greater Damascus area, the southern Daraa region and Homs city. They are meant to separate extremist groups, including Daesh and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – better known as al-Nusra Front — from other militants.

A picture taken on February 15, 2018 shows a Turkish military convoy driving through Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province. (By AFP)

 

Ankara has agreed to set up 12 observation posts in Idlib and neighboring provinces.

The Astana process began in January 2017, with the mediation of Russia, Iran, two Damascus allies, and Turkey, which backs several armed opposition groups operating against the Syrian government. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process.

Last week, Turkey said it would host a tripartite meeting with the Russian and Iranian leaders to discuss their mediation efforts in Syria, without mentioning the exact date of the summit.

Capitalizing on the achievements of Astana, Russia on January 29-30 convened a high-profile meeting on Syria — the Syrian Congress of National Dialog — in the Russian port city of Sochi.

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