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Merkel, Macron told Putin they are ready to hold joint meeting with Erdogan

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier held a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin

BERLIN, February 20. /TASS/. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have held a joint phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, during which they have discussed the situation in Syria’s Idlib, Angela Merkel’s Spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

"Chancellor Merkel and President Macron made their concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Syrian province of Idlib clear," the spokesman noted.

"They [Merkel and Macron] have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for unhindered access to humanitarian aid to those who need it. They have expressed their readiness to hold a joint meeting with Putin and Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to find a political solution to the crisis," Seibert said.

Tensions in Idlib

The Russian Foreign Ministry noted a rise in tensions in the Idlib de-escalation zone in the past few weeks. The Russian and Turkish military attempted to establish a ceasefire in the region, however, terrorist attacks persisted. As a result, military specialists from Russia and Turkey were killed.

On January 25, the Syrian government army began an operation with the aim to regain control over the western and southern outskirts of Aleppo. On February 5, Syrian government forces entered the town of Saraqib, an outpost of Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist organization banned in Russia) in the Idlib province. Saraqib is a town of strategic importance that sits at the junction of two main roads connecting Latakia and Damascus with Aleppo.

On February 11, the Syrian opposition launched an offensive against the Syrian government forces in two directions: the city of Saraqib and the settlement of Neirab to the north of Saraqib. The armed opposition units are aided by the Turkish military. The Syrian army repelled the attacks.

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Ankara is ready to use all of its firepower in case of a large-scale military operation in Idlib. He added that the start of a new operation in Idlib is a question of time, and that all preparations for it are complete.

Idlib is the only Syrian region that has been controlled by illegal armed groups, including the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, 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 Turkish army has 12 observation outposts in the province.