A deal struck between Turkey and Russia to avoid an assault on Syria's last major opposition stronghold in Idlib province must protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access, the European Union said Tuesday (September 18th).
"We expect that the agreement which was according to reports reached yesterday by the Russian and Turkish presidents will guarantee the protection of civilian lives and infrastructure as well as guarantee unhindered and sustainable humanitarian access," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who are on opposite sides in the deadly seven-year conflict in Syria -- reached the agreement on the fate of Idlib, home to three million people, in talks on Monday.
The two leaders agreed to create a 15 to 20 kilometre-wide demilitarised zone along the line of contact between opposition fighters and regime troops by October 15th, to be secured with the help of Turkish and Russian forces.
Moscow said the agreement meant that no military action would be taken against Idlib, Russian news agencies reported.
Kocijancic said the EU had repeatedly warned against an offensive on Idlib, saying such action would risk "a new humanitarian catastrophe".