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Russian top diplomat to discuss with Erdogan his remarks about Assad

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Ankara’s military operation in Syria is aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to media reports

MOSCOW, November 30. /TASS/. Remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will be a topic of discussion during the upcoming visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Wednesday.

"That will be a good topic to clarify the intentions," he said answering a question from a TASS correspondent.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that Moscow relies on public statements made by the Turkish president, while the words concerning Bashar Assad were uttered "off the record."

"We studied the matter yesterday. The quote caused a great stir," Zakharova said. "We tried to understand whether it was quoted as it had been said. It was not a direct quote, but a retelling of what had been said ‘off-the-record’. We rely on the public statements."

"In the context of settling the Syrian crisis and in the context of bilateral relations with Turkey Russia proceeds from the agreements that we have, that were achieved at the official level and in direct contacts with the Turkish leadership," Zakharova recalled. "These are official documents. We regard them as basic ones in the context of the Syrian settlement and in bilateral relations with Ankara. There are not just bilateral agreements, but documents of the International Syria Support Group, to which Turkey is affiliated. Within the framework of those documents there are no doubts the Syrian conflict can have no solution other than a peaceful one; there is no military way of settling the Syrian situation. This is well seen not only in ISSG documents, but also in the UN Security Council resolutions, mandatory for all countries."

"We proceed from the existing agreements and liabilities of countries, and not from quotes that may have been misinterpreted or extracted from the context. It remains to be seen," Zakharova said.

On Tuesday a number of mass media quoted Erdogan as saying at a symposium on Middle East issues in Istanbul that Turkey did not lay claim to Syria’s territory and that it had launched the military operation in northern Syria with the aim to put an end to Assad rule.

Lavrov will pay a working visit to Turkey on December 1 to attend a meeting of the joint strategic planning group. The meeting in Alanya will take place for the first time after the end of the crisis in bilateral relations, which lasted for more than six months. 

Cooperation between Moscow and Ankara in combatting terrorism in Syria will be in the spotlight during the upcoming visit, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

"The focus will be on cooperating in the fight against international terrorism, primarily in the Syrian Arab Republic, and also conditions for a Syrian settlement with the emphasis on shifting it to politics by launching an inclusive national dialogue based on commonly recognized principles of international law," the ministry said.