Syria FM says needs 'time' to see if Idlib deal fulfilled

A Russian-Turkish truce agreement reached nearly a month ago for the region of Idlib gave "radical fighters" until 15 October to leave a proposed demilitarised area.

FILE: A Syrian rebel-fighter from the National Liberation Front (NLF) secures a tank, part of heavy weapons and equipment withdrawn on 8 October 2018 from a planned buffer zone around Idlib in one of the group's rear positions in a rebel-held area in the south-western Syrian province. Picture: AFP.

DAMASCUS - Syria said on Monday it was waiting for Russia to determine whether a deal creating a buffer in the northwest was implemented, hours after jihadists missed a deadline to leave the zone.

A Russian-Turkish truce agreement reached nearly a month ago for the region of Idlib gave "radical fighters" until 15 October to leave a proposed demilitarised area between government and opposition forces.

Jihadists failed to withdraw overnight, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem did not declare the deal dead.

"We must give the time... to judge whether the agreement was fulfilled or not," Muallem told reporters during a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Damascus.

"We have to wait for the Russian reaction. Russia is monitoring and following the situation," he said.

The top diplomat expressed hope that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would still be able to "fulfil the agreement from his part".

But he hinted that the military option was not off the table, saying jihadist groups in Idlib "must be removed from its last stronghold in Idlib".

"We have to wait, but at the same time, our troops are still ready around Idlib," Muallem said.

"Idlib - as any other province - has to return back to the Syrian sovereignty," he repeated.