Turkey and Russia agreed to a ceasefire deal on March 12 in Syria’s Idlib region to contain a conflict which has displaced nearly a million people in three months, according to Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped that the ceasefire deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would lead to a halt of military action in Syria’s last major rebel occupation in the country.
“I express hope that these agreements will serve as a good basis for a cessation of military activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone [and] stop the suffering of the peaceful population and the growing humanitarian crisis,” Putin said.
“We will work together to supply aid for the Syrians in need,” Erdogan told reporters, adding that Turkey retained the right “to respond to all (Syrian) regime attacks in the field.”
Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backing rebel groups. Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed which sparked what the United Nations stated might be the worst humanitarian crisis yet in a war.
The Idlib province of Syria is divided among powers such as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, Turkish militants, Kurdish forces, Syrian government, Jihadist forces and Syrian rebels.
According to BBC, the area was meant to be a “de-escalation zone” acting as a buffer between Russian and Turkish control. Fighting has continued in the zone, and the previous deal in 2018 between the two countries has been violated.
Financial Times reported that although an agreement by both Russia and Turkey has brought some days of peace to the province, in the towns and villages of Syria, few civilians thought that the peace will last.
The fighting in the province has killed around 60 Turkish troops, and approximately 16 civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit a gathering of displaced people near the town of Maarrat Misrin, according to Reuters.
Erdogan has faced criticism after sending troops into the province, yet promising protection for civilians who want to return to the area. There are reports of a rising anger in Turkey because of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the country.
According to Human Rights First, the United States should lead a global effort to protect Syrian refugee families as over 7 million Syrian civilians are still displaced within the country in need of humanitarian assistance, the largest refugee crisis since World War II.
Since the Trump administration has been in office, refugee numbers have drastically reduced and the U.S. government has imposed new security vetting procedures on refugees before they can be admitted to the country, leaving many refugees in dangerous situations for prolonged periods. According to the American Immigration Council, in 2017, the U.S. settled the fewest refugees in the world.
In that same year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that suspended the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, and the administration indefinitely suspended the entry of Syrian refugees into the country.