MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Russia maintains contact with Syrian and Turkish officials and keeps a close watch on the operation in Afrin.
"We closely follow progress in the operation [in the area of Syria’s Afrin]. Russian representatives maintain contact with the Syrian and Turkish leadership on the issue," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Monday.
"As before, we believe that the principle of preserving Syria’s territorial integrity is the basic one. Certainly, we keep a close eye on the humanitarian aspects related with the current events in the area of Afrin," he stated.
Peskov avoided answering the question if Moscow had been notified of Turkey’s preparations for the military operation in advance.
Turkey’s General Staff on January 20 declared the start of the operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish Self-Defense Forces and the Democratic Union Party in Syria’s Afrin, which is home to 1.5 million Syrian Kurds. According to the latest reports, Turkish planes have hit 153 targets in Afrin. The Sky News Arabia television channel said the air raids on Afrin left six civilians and three Self Defense Forces combatants dead. The Turkish General Staff claims that all of those killed were terrorists.
Russian presidential spokesman has also neither confirmed nor denied reports that President Putin can meet with the participants in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi scheduled for January 29-30.
"I cannot confirm this to you yet. A pretty busy schedule related to regional trips. So far, no specific events planned for the president. However, on the other hand, you know that the president has a mobile schedule. I do stress, however, that I cannot tell you at the moment whether it will take place or not," he said when asked whether Putin’s meeting with the participants in the Congress is possible.