MOSCOW/ANKARA (Reuters) - Russia and Turkey have suspended joint military patrols carried out along the M4 highway in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib over increasing militant attacks in the area, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Russia and Turkey began the patrols in March after they agreed a ceasefire in the region following weeks of clashes that brought Ankara and Moscow close to direct confrontation, and displaced nearly a million people.
Recent attacks by “radicals” have prompted a suspension of the patrols, the ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
“Terrorists have stepped up the amount of shelling on government troops and nearby settlements, not ceasing their provocations in the ‘security corridor’ along the M4 highway. Thus, the joint patrols have been suspended,” she told a news conference on Thursday.
The two militaries had carried out 24 joint patrols along the key M4 highway that links Syria’s east and west, with the latest along the Trumbah and Ayn Al Havron road on Wednesday, Turkey’s defence ministry said. Two patrols had previously been cut short over security concerns.
The ceasefire reached by Ankara and Moscow on March 5 has largely held, with both sides saying there have only been minor violations.
Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Alexander Marrow in Moscow, and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Jonathan Spicer
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