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Russian, Turkish top diplomats to focus on Idlib, Syrian refugees

Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu will hold talks in Moscow on Friday
Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov Valery Sharufulin/TASS
Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov
© Valery Sharufulin/TASS

MOSCOW, August 24. /TASS/. Russian and Turkish Foreign Ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, will hold talks in Moscow on Friday.

The two top diplomats saw each other ten days ago in Ankara, when the Russian foreign minister attended a conference of Turkish ambassadors and envoys to international organizations, for the first time in the bilateral diplomatic practice.

Moscow’s talks will continue dialogue started in the Turkish capital. The agenda includes a wide range of issues, such as the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria and return of Syrian refugees, upcoming top-level contacts, joint energy and economic projects, including possible use of national currencies in bilateral trade.

Bilateral relations

Relations between Russia and Turkey are seeing dynamic development, with the sides organizing regular top-and high-level contacts, let alone contacts between ministries and agencies, civil societies and businesses.

Last week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and chief of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan came to Moscow for consultations with their Russian counterparts.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are expected to meet twice in the near future on the sidelines of international meetings on Syrian settlement. Thus, a summit meeting of the Russia, Turkish, French and German leaders is scheduled for September in Istanbul. Apart from that, the two leaders will attend an Astana format (Russia, Iran, Turkey) summit in Teheran.

The Russian foreign ministry notes upwards dynamics in bilateral trade, which went up by 46.2% in May 2018 on the same period last year, to reach 11.4 billion US dollars. Russia and Turkey continue implementation of the Turkish Stream and Akkuyu NPP projects.

Both Moscow and Ankara are against the United States’ sanctions, considering them as a tool of unfair competition. Thus, Washington threatens to impose sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile systems. Bearing this in mind, the sides share the opinion that it would be expedient to use their national currencies in trade.

Apart from that, the two top diplomats are likely to discuss visa liberation issues. After their previous meeting, the Russian side said it was ready to look at abandoning entry visas for businessmen and holders of official passports and to simplify visa requirements for drivers of heavy-duty trucks.

Problem topic

Syria’s Idlib is the last of the four de-escalation zones that is still controlled by illegal armed groups. Syrian President Bashar Assad said that now that terrorists in southwestern Syrian had been defeated, the Syrian army will focus on Idlib. However Ankara, which is responsible for this de-escalation zone, warned Damascus against such operation, saying it may trigger large refugee flows.

But militants, who fled Eastern Ghouta and Homs via humanitarian corridor, continue to fight against the Syrian army, staging shelling attacks from Idlib on the government army positions and the Russian airbase at HMeymim.

According to Lavrov, Moscow and Ankara will soon reach agreement on separation of opposition groups from al-Nusra ( a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia).

According to latest reports, terrorists are not going to surrender and arrest those commanders who are ready for reconciliation with Damascus.

Idlib in not the only sensible topic for Turkey in Syria. Turkey considers the US-supported Kurdish People’s Defense Forces, which are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition, as a terrorist organization and fears that these groups may take control of the many-kilometer zone at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Return of Syrian refugees

At a meeting in Russia’s Sochi on July 30-31, the three Syrian ceasefire guarantor nations, namely Russia, Iran and Turkey, agreed to promote the process of the return of Syrian refugees.

Turkey has recently invited Russia to set up a working group to tackle technical aspects of the refugee return process. Turkey currently gives shelter to more than three million Syrian refugees.

Ankara insists United Nations be involved in the process but the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says there are no conditions for refugee return in Syria as of yet.