Turkey, Russia to begin patrols of Idlib

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's defense minister says Turkey and Russia will begin patrols of Syria's northwestern Idlib region, where the two countries have created a de-escalation zone.

Hulusi Akar also said Friday that restrictions on Turkey's use of the airspace above the Idlib and Afrin regions have been lifted, signaling the possible use of drones or aircraft to secure those areas.

Russia and Turkey brokered a cease-fire in September for Idlib, the last major stronghold of Syria's rebels. The agreement averted a Syrian government offensive, but has come under strain as al-Qaida-linked militants have seized towns and villages from rival insurgents.

In comments aired live on several Turkish news channels, Akar said Russia would patrol the border outside Idlib while Turkey would patrol inside the de-escalation zone..

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