Turkish armored vehicles on their first patrol in Syria’s Idlib province on Friday. Photo: Ibrahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency

Turkish and Russian troops began patrolling Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on Friday as part of an agreement signed last year, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry.

The jihadist-controlled province has been protected from a major offensive by the Syrian regime following the September agreement between Damascus ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey, which included establishing a demilitarized zone around the region.

“Today Russian patrols will start outside of Idlib in the border region [and] Turkish armed forces’ patrols will begin in the demilitarised zone,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told state news agency Anadolu.

“There were restrictions on the use of Idlib and Afrin regions’ airspace, but these have been lifted from today.”

Idlib is the last major region held by rebels in Syria and is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

HTS took administrative control of the whole of the Idlib region in January.

Despite being on opposing sides of the conflict, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have been working closely in an effort to end the war.

An AFP correspondent on Friday morning saw a column of around 10 armored vehicles on a road in the zone in the western countryside of Aleppo province.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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