In one of the first, albeit small signs of the de-escalation of violence in the Idlib province of Syria, Russian and Turkish troops carried out joint patrols along the all-important M4 highway.

The northwestern part of Syria has been a bloody, violent place since late last year. 

“Within the framework of the Moscow agreement, the first joint Turkish-Russian land patrol on the M4 highway has been completed with the contribution of air and land assets,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The Russians also stated that their troops and armored vehicles took part in the joint patrol. The patrol began from the village of Tronba, which is the farthest point that the rebels fighting against the Syrian government have control of. 

Sunday marked the beginning of the 10th year of the civil war, which began as a peaceful protest against the brutal Assad regime. It turned into a huge bloody conflict that brought in Russian, Turkish and American troops after the Islamic State captured a huge swath of territory in the resulting power vacuum. The civil war has decimated the country. 

The last bastion of the rebel-controlled territory is in Idlib province. Syrian government troops, with Russian air support, have attempted to hammer the rebel forces and retake the remainder of the country. But the Turkish army, who supports the rebels, began pouring into Syria to stem the tide. 

Turkey’s position is that it already houses three and a half million refugees from Syria. Once the Syrian offensive in Idlib province began late last year, it created a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations deemed the worst in the world. Hundreds of thousands have already died. Nearly one million people have been forced to flee Idlib and streamed towards the Turkish border. Russia accused the Turks of exaggerating the humanitarian crisis, and of violating Syrian sovereignty by flooding their troops across the border. 

The Turks are unwilling to accept more refugees and blocked them from entering their territory. Refugees live in makeshift camps along the border, and many of them are forced to live in the open.