Putin, Erdogan meet in Moscow on fighting Islamic State in Syria

Source:AFP Published: 2019/8/27 21:28:40

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for talks in Moscow on Tuesday as they seek common ground on the fighting against Islamic State in northwestern Syria.

Putin and Erdogan spoke together at the opening of the MAKS international airshow on the outskirts of Moscow.  

The meeting came ahead of a September 16 summit in Ankara that will bring together the main foreign players in Syria's conflict - Putin, Erdogan and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.

The fighting in Syria's northwestern Idlib province is threatening to increase tensions between Russia and Iran, who back President Bashar al-Assad's government, and Turkey which supports some rebel groups.

Erdogan said last week that a Russian-backed offensive by Assad's forces against jihadists in Idlib province "very seriously" threatened Turkey's national security and was causing a major humanitarian crisis.

Moscow and Ankara last year struck a deal to create a buffer zone around Idlib - the last major province of Syria outside government hands - to avert a full-scale  assault. Assad's forces have been bombarding the province for months and on August 8 launched a ground offensive.

Clashes between rebel fighters and government forces killed 51 combatants on both sides on Tuesday, a war monitor said. 

For Erdogan, a key question will be protecting Turkish troops deployed in Idlib. Syrian government forces have encircled a Turkish observation post in Idlib - one of 12 established by Ankara in the region under the buffer zone deal. 

Last week a government airstrike cut off a Turkish military convoy shortly after it crossed into Idlib. 

Turkey is also concerned over a potential mass exodus of Syrian refugees from the province, which is on its southern borders.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Putin "understands the concerns" of Ankara but insists on the need to counter "the actions of terrorist elements in Idlib."

Russia and Turkey have managed to find compromises on Syria in the past, while increasing cooperation in other areas. Turkey began taking delivery in July of Russian S-400 missile systems it ordered in defiance of warnings from Washington. 

Posted in: MID-EAST

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