UN, February 29. /TASS/. The Astana talks on resolving the conflict in Syria remain essential, despite Western countries’ attempts to exploit the Idlib situation to set off Moscow and Ankara against each other, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told journalists after an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Saturday.
"De-escalation can be achieved only through a dialogue between Russia and Turkey and not through our partners’ cunning calls for that," the Russian envoy said.
"Today it was obvious that some are exploiting the situation to quarrel us with Ankara. Today their keynote was the phrase: ‘Astana is dead.’ I want to disillusion them: don’t hurry to bury it," the envoy stressed.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft stated at the UN Security Council’s emergency meeting that the attack, in which Turkish soldiers were killed in Syria, should serve "as the final nail in the Astana Format’s coffin."
The tensions in Syria’s Idlib region escalated on Thursday after militants launched a large-scale offensive, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. In the early hours of Friday, the Syrian government forces conducted strikes on their positions, which, as Ankara claims, killed 33 Turkish soldiers. In response, Turkey’s Air Force conducted strikes on the Syrian troops, later specifying that more than 200 targets had been hit.
The Russian Defense Ministry told reporters that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (one of the names of Jabhat al-Nusra, banned in Russia) unleashed a large-scale offensive on Idlib on Thursday. The killed Turkish soldiers were among the advancing terrorists, the Russian Defense Ministry stated.
Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Idlib situation over the phone. They stressed the need to normalize the situation and agreed to consider holding a summit soon.
Idlib is the only Syrian region that has been controlled by illegal armed groups since 2012. A northern de-escalation zone was set up in Idlib in 2017 to give shelter to militants who refused to surrender arms in Eastern Ghouta and Syria’s southern regions.
The term Astana process was coined to indicate talks on the Syrian settlement between Russia, Iran and Turkey in Kazakhstan’s capital city known as Astana until March 2019, when it was renamed Nur-Sultan. The first round of talks in this format took place in January 2017.