Turkey, which borders Idlib, supports some rebel groups there and has grave concern over the effects of an operation in the province that holds some three million people. However, Erdogan's call for a cease-fire in Idlib, which borders Turkey, was accepted neither by Russian Federation nor Iran at the tripartite summit in Tehran on September 7. At the same time, it has sent reinforcements of its troops ringing Idlib, a move created to ward off a ground assault, at least for now.
He recalled that in 2017 Turkey was visited by "a record number of Russians - 4.7 million people, and Russia came in first place in terms of the number of foreigners who visited Turkey".
Speaking at a news conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi, Erdogan said the two nations will carry out coordinated military patrols on the borders of the demilitarized zone. Experts saw this as a move by Erdogan to exert pressure on Russian Federation and the Syrian regime, by creating a reminder that these rebel factions could move once more on cities such as Aleppo that have already been recaptured by the Syrian regime.
Ümit Kiler, the Turkish Representative Chairman of Iran-Turkey Business Council, wrote in a recent article in the Turkish newspaper Dünya that the plan would be put on the agenda of the Iranian and Turkish governments in the near future, stressing that the move would be crucial in promoting economic bonds between Tehran and Ankara. Of these, between 10-20% are thought to be hard-line militants, including Jabhat al-Nusra, with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Russia-backed forces of the Syrian regime have massed around Idlib province in recent weeks, which sparked fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.
Russia's military support for the Syrian government has helped reverse years of rebel gains.
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Separately, Turkey has troops stationed in the enclave under its control north and east of Idlib, where it backs Syrian opposition fighters and a civilian administration.
Over the past couple of months, the Syrian government forces have urged the rebels in Idlib province to lay down their weapons and agree to a reconciliation deal with the government. "But let's not create an excuse and take a step like bombing there".
It is not even clear that the areas of Idlib excluded from the demilitarised zone will be open to Russian assault.
Still, it was unclear how Turkey and Russian Federation would persuade rebel fighters to retreat and give up their heavy weaponry.
"We will remain ready for fighting", he said.
Why it matters to Assad, Russia?
Russian Federation has called Idlib a hotbed of terrorism and had said the Syrian government has the right to retake control of it.