UK thanks Turkey for brokering Idlib agreement

Alistair Burt said the Idlib agreement could help avert a catastrophe

TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their joint press conference following the talks, in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Sochi on September 17, 2018.  The leaders of the two countries that are on opposite sides of the conflict but key global allies will discuss the situation in Idlib at Putin's residence in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. / AFP / SPUTNIK / Alexander Zemlianichenko

The UK has thanked Turkey for helping to broker an agreement with Russia that averted a full blown assault on rebel-held Idlib in Syria this week.

Speaking on a visit to Turkey, minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt described the agreement as encouraging, noting that “this agreement, if implemented in accordance with international humanitarian law, will help to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The so called Memorandum on Stabilisation of the Situation in Idlib, the details of which were revealed exclusively by The National on Wednesday, listed 10 points of agreement including a demilitarised zone 15km into rebel-held territory, and the expulsion of "radical terrorist groups" from within this area.

He also thanked the Turkish government for what he called its “frontline role” in tackling the Syria’s refugee crisis.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned earlier in the week that an assault on Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold could be a “bloodbath”

Opposition-held Idlib, is home to some three million people, many of who have fled fighting in other parts of Syria. Observers had warned

Whilst in Turkey, Mr Burt also visited members of the White Helmets and Hala Systems, two UK-funded projects operating inside opposition-held Syria.

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Highlighting that the White Helmets had saved more than 115,000 Syrian lives, Mr Burt stressed that “they must be able to continue their vital work without being targeted by the Al Assad regime.”

He also praised Hala Systems, a system devised to alert Syrians of incoming air strikes, noting it “can offer Syrian civilians valuable minutes to get to safety ahead of airstrikes, and which has seen a 27% reduction in the number of casualties in areas under heavy bombardment.”

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