Erdogan, Putin Discuss Ways to Stabilize Syria’s Idlib

Wednesday, 23 January, 2019 - 19:30
Asharq Al-Awsat

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the situation in Syria’s Idlib province.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier on Wednesday that the situation in the region, where Moscow and Ankara have tried to create a de-escalation zone, was rapidly deteriorating and that it was almost under the full control of Nusra militants.

“Unfortunately, there are many problems there and we see them,” said Putin, standing alongside Erdogan.

He said Turkey was doing a lot to try to remedy the situation, but that more action by both Ankara and Moscow was required to “liquidate the actions of terrorist groups.”

Putin said he had agreed to host a summit soon where Russia, Turkey and Iran would discuss the situation in Syria. He did not name a date for the summit, but said he and Erdogan had agreed on its provisional timing.

The Russian leader also complained about the difficulty of forming a UN-sponsored constitutional committee for Syria, saying that France, Germany and Britain had blocked the proposed make-up of the committee in December, a move he said had come as a surprise for Moscow.

At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as "dear friend," saying that their countries "work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria."

Erdogan used the same term for Putin in translated comments and said "our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region."

The warm rhetoric came despite the fact that the two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian regime, while Turkey has backed opposition factions fighting Bashar Assad’s regime forces.

Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.

Turkey has welcomed Washington's planned withdrawal from Syria but the future of US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), labelled terrorists by Ankara, has upset ties between the NATO allies.

Erdogan said Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled "security zone" in northern Syria, suggested by US President Donald Trump.

The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.

Moscow is likely to oppose the plan, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week saying Damascus must take control of the north.

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