Russia and Turkey restrict Idlib patrols over security threats
Russian and Turkish troops have cut short patrols in Syria'sIdlib province over security threats, Moscow's defence ministry said on Monday.
The two countries agreed to joint patrols around the M4 highway region last month, after heavy bombing and clashes between regime and Turkish forces brought Moscow and Ankara to the brink of war.
The joint patrols were seen as a way of pacifying regime and Russian demands for control of the M4 highway - which links Aleppo and Damascus.
It has also created a buffer zone in Idlib province, which suffered horrendous regime and Russian bombing, killing hundreds and forcing around a million people to flee their homes.
The patrols have led to protests from some Syrians in the area, angry at the capitulation of vast areas of opposition territory to the regime - including whole towns.
Some hardline militant groups have also threatened to attack or behead Russian soldiers found in the area.
Russia suspended the first patrol in the area earlier in March following "rebel provocations", according to Reuters.
Turkey - which is trying to keep the ceasefire alive - said that the second patrol went ahead as planned on Monday and did not mention a suspension of the operation.
"Within the framework of the Moscow agreement, the 2nd joint Turkish-Russian land patrol on the M4 highway has been completed with the contribution of air and land assets," the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement, according to Anadolu agency.
Turkey was engaged in fierce tit-for-tat clashes with Syrian regime forces - and allegedly, Russia - during Damascus' offensive in northwest Syria from December, which saw it capture vast parts of opposition Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
A hasty ceasefire was agreed between Russia and Turkey, which was criticised by some in the opposition for ceding vast areas of opposition land to the regime.