MOSCOW, March 4. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet on Thursday at the Kremlin against the background of escalating tensions in Syria’s Idlib province.
"Plans are in store to discuss the Idlib crisis with Erdogan. We expect that an understanding on the forerunner of that crisis, the reasons for that crisis, the fallout from that crisis and the package of necessary joint measures aimed at ending it will be reached," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
The Kremlin spokesman refrained from specifying what particular measures were meant. "Let’s wait for tomorrow," he said.
Peskov earlier stressed that Moscow was committed to the Sochi agreements, favored Syria’s territorial integrity, supported Syria’s determination to continue the fight against terrorist groups, including those on the UN Security Council’s list and assigned high priority to cooperation with its Turkish partners.
The Turkish president told journalists that he expected a ceasefire would be declared in Idlib following his Thursday’s talks with President Putin.
The Turkish media say that prior to the two leaders’ talks, the delegations of the two countries could meet to once again specify their expectations as to the situation in Idlib. It is expected that Turkey will seek to ensure that the Syrian troops stop returning territories in Idlib under the control of Damascus. Ankara believes this condition is important "to put an end to a humanitarian disaster and prevent new waves of refugees to the border with Turkey".
Meanwhile, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties dismissed on March 3 allegations from representatives of Turkey, the EU and the US about millions of refugees in that de-escalation zone. It is not ruled out that Ankara will bring up the issue of the use of airspace over Idlib at the talks.
The Sabah daily close to the Turkish government maintains that the sides at the talks in Moscow may sign a new agreement that could become a revised version of the previous Sochi memorandum.
Erdogan is one of the leaders who the Russian president talks to most frequently. The upcoming talks will be their third personal meeting this year. According to reports on the Kremlin website, last year Putin spoke with Erdogan over the phone 12 times, more than with anybody else among his foreign counterparts. This year, the Russian and Turkish presidents have had five phone calls, two of which took place at the end of February already against the backdrop of a crisis in Idlib.
The tensions in Syria’s Idlib region escalated on February 27 after militants unleashed a large-scale offensive, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The Syrian government forces conducted strikes on their positions, which, as Ankara claims, killed 36 Turkish soldiers. In response, Turkey’s Air Force conducted strikes on the Syrian troops, later specifying that more than 200 targets had been hit.
On February 27, Ankara launched a new incursion in Syria dubbed Operation Spring Shield targeting the Syrian government forces and facilities.