Russia, Turkey agree to take steps to ‘stabilise’ Syria’s Idlib

Putin, Erdogan vow to battle ‘terrorists’ in Idlib, agree on safeguarding Turkey-Syria border.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Vladimir Putin meeting in Moscow
The two leaders met to discuss the situation in Syria as the nearly eight-year conflict winds down [Murat Kula/Anadolu]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recept Tayyip Erdogan say they have discussed steps needed to stabilise the situation in Syria’s Idlib province where the joint battle against “terrorist” organisations will continue.

Erdogan arrived in Moscow on Wednesday with several of his cabinet members for a day-long visit.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said the situation in the region, where Moscow and Ankara have tried to create a de-escalation zone, was rapidly deteriorating and that it was almost under the full control of Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – a rebel group that was previously linked to al-Qaeda.

“Unfortunately there are many problems there and we see them,” said Putin, standing alongside Erdogan at a joint press conference following the meeting.

He said Turkey was doing a lot to try to remedy the situation, but that more action by both Ankara and Moscow was required to “liquidate the actions of terrorist groups”.

In September last year, Turkey pledged to disarm and remove HTS fighters in Idlib when a deal was signed between Turkey and Russia.

The deal succeeded in preventing a Russia-backed Syrian government offensive from launching in Idlib which is home to nearly three million people.

Putin also said he had agreed to host a summit soon where Russia, Turkey and Iran could discuss the situation in Syria under the Astana peace track.

He noted that a Syrian Constitutional Committee is “very important” and dialogue should be initiated among all parties, and complained about the difficulty of forming a UN-sponsored committee.

Safe zone

The two leaders met to discuss the situation in Syria as the nearly eight-year conflict winds down. Various players – including numerous armed groups backed by different allies – seek to gain control of territory.

Ankara is seeking to establish a 30km-long safe zone along the Syrian border to contain a US-allied Kurdish militia that it considers a “terrorist” group.

During Wednesday’s joint press conference, Erdogan said the leaders did not have any disagreements about establishing this planned safe zone, without revealing any details.  

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said the two leaders have not reached a concrete deal over two main issues – establishing the so-called safe zone, and the situation in Idlib.

“The Russians are saying yes, ‘we will help our Turkish friends to ensure their security, but the preferred Russian way of doing that is by getting Damascus and the Kurds to talk’,” he said.

Erdogan also said it was of crucial importance that the planned US withdrawal from Syria does not leave room for “terrorist” groups to roam freely.

He added Turkey and Russia would continue to battle “terrorist” organisations in Syria’s Idlib province.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies