MOSCOW, February 29. /TASS/. Representatives of Russia and Turkey confirmed their goal at consultations on Syria in Ankara to reduce the tension in Idlib while continuing to fight terrorists, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The Russian delegation included Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and representatives of the Defense Ministry. The Turkish delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, the statement says.
"The sides continued discussing specific steps for achieving durable stabilization of the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone based on the full implementation of the memorandum dated May 4, 2017 and the memorandum dated September 17, 2018," the Russian Foreign Ministry informed.
"Both sides confirmed their goal to reduce the tension ‘on the ground’ while continuing the war on terrorists recognized as such by the UN Security Council and also to protect civilians inside and outside the de-escalation zone and render emergency humanitarian assistance to all those who need it," the statement reads.
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 it had hit more than 200 targets.
The Russian Defense Ministry told reporters that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (one of the names of the Jabhat al-Nusra organization outlawed 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. Russia’s air task force was not employed in that area, the ministry said.
Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Idlib situation over the phone on Friday. They stressed the need to take additional measures to normalize the situation in the Idlib province and agreed to consider holding a summit soon.