Germany’s top diplomat cautiously welcomes ‘overdue’ Idlib truce

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas cautiously welcomed Turkey and Russia’s ceasefire agreement for the embattled Syrian region of Idlib in comments to a public radio broadcaster on Friday.

“Neither side is interested in this conflict becoming a Turkish-Russian one,” Maas told Deutschlandfunk.

He called the agreement “overdue” and stressed that Russia and Turkey, who back opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, must both now adhere to it.

Germany’s top diplomat made the comments before convening with his EU counterparts for a crisis meeting in Zagreb.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday to a ceasefire for Idlib that went into effect at midnight.

The two countries have also agreed to observe a security corridor along a major highway in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel stronghold, near the Turkish border.

However, Turkish-backed rebel groups have expressed their scepticism at the deal and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring violence in Syria since 2011, has already reported clashes between rebels and Syrian government forces in the region.

If Russia can encourage its ally, the Syrian government, to stick to the truce and the deal proves successful, Maas said this would clear the way for humanitarian aid to reach the Idlib population. “This would be a very very positive development,” he added.

According to UN figures, almost 950,000 of the region’s three million inhabitants have been driven from their homes by the violence.

Germany has offered the United Nations an additional 100 million euros in aid to help these people in need.

Maas vowed to raise the issue at the UN Security Council, but stopped short of backing calls for sanctions against Russia.

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