Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan have discussed the de-escalation of the crisis in Syria. According to international reports, Kremlin urged Ankara on February 12 to implement the peace agreements. After a phone call between both leaders, Kremlin reportedly released a statement that Russia and Turkey 'noted the importance of full implementation' of the existing accords including the Sochi memorandum.
The leaders have also reviewed the different aspects of the settlement of the Syrian crisis especially in the context of the recent escalation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. It was in 2018 when both countries had agreed on a memorandum in order to enforce a demilitarized zone in Syria's Idlib region from which the 'radical' forces were asked to withdraw. However, Russia has insisted that groups of 'terrorists' have continued to fight in the same region.
Meanwhile, Erdogan had also said on February 11 that the Syrian government 'would pay a high price', before Turkey-backed Syrian rebels downed a helicopter belonging to the Syrian government in Idlib's Saraqib. On February 10, five Turkish soldiers were killed by the Syrian Army promising a harsh retaliation. Furthermore, a Turkish official told an international agency that the forces loyal to the Syrian government had fired near Turkey's observation posts in Idlib.
The tensions in Northern Syria have started escalating since last week when the shelling by Syrian government forces killed eight Turkish nationals on its observation posts in Idlib. That attack was reportedly followed by Turkish attack on Syria which according to Erdogan killed 76 Syrian officials. It was few days after the attacks that the Turkish army reportedly started deploying in the disputed region as convoys of at least 150 trucks with Turkey's special forces were spotted at the Turkey-Syria border.
The Syrian government has also seized control of a highway in northwest Syria reportedly for the first time since 2012. It is the M5 highway which is also the main road between Aleppo and the capital Damascus and runs through Deraa in Northern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based on British-based war monitor said that the Syrian government forces have captured the entire road.
Turkey supports the Syrian rebels, while Russia backs the forces of the Syrian government to recapture the area which is also the last-rebel stronghold in Syria. Furthermore, according to an official of the United Nations, the increase in violence since December 1 has caused the displacement of nearly 700,000 people up from 600,000. The UN regional spokesperson reportedly said that it was 'largest' number of people displaced in a single period of time since the crisis began nearly nine years ago.