Turkey and Russia hold new round of talks to resolve Idlib crisis

World Sergey Matyunin 18-Feb-2020
ID 34879931 © Richard Harvey | Dreamstime.com

The second round of the Russian-Turkish consultations, aiming to ease the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib started in Moscow today.

The Russian delegation is led by Sergey Vershinin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Syrian affairs. The Turkish delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal.

Both delegations include representatives of military and intelligence services.

Earlier Ankara and Moscow did not manage to reach an accord after a call between Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin and a meeting between their foreign ministers at the weekend and after two days of talks in Ankara last week.

The latest advances by President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian and Iranian-backed troops came after 13 Turkish soldiers were killed in the Idlib region.

Ankara deployed thousands of soldiers to Syria. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels downed a helicopter believed to belong to the Syrian government in the town of Nairab, Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber reported.

At the same time, government forces recaptured over 600 square km of territory and took control of dozens of towns and villages.

Last week they recaptured the crossroads town of Saraqeb, on the M5. Turkey has several military personnel stationed there to prevent further Syrian advances after eight of its soldiers were killed by Syrian shelling.

A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara on Saturday days after the attack to hold talks aimed at stopping clashes. On their final day of talks, a second Syrian attack on Turkish troops in the Taftanaz area killed five more troops.

Ankara has said that it retaliated to both attacks, destroying several Syrian targets. It said would drive back Assad’s forces unless they withdraw by the end of the month. It also told the Russian team that attacks against Turkish posts must stop immediately.

The Russians left Turkey after talks ended on Monday, a Turkish diplomatic source said, with no apparent agreement.

The Kremlin said all attacks on Russian and Syrian forces in Idlib had to stop.

The battle for Idlib is a crucial stage of a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians, made millions refugees in their own country or overseas, and fractured the wider Middle East since it broke out amid the Arab Spring in 2011.

Forces arrayed against Assad, Syria’s ruler for nearly 20 years, have failed to dislodge him but he now presides over a devastated country. Moscow’s military intervention in 2015 helped swing the war decisively in Assad’s favour.

Despite being on opposing sides, Turkey and Russia collaborate for a political solution to the conflict.