'Russian delegation to visit Turkey for talks on Idlib'

IHA Photo

Speaking to reporters ahead of his departure for an official visit to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that a Russian delegation will arrive in Turkey on Wednesday to discuss Idlib, while he highlighted that he may meet with President Vladimir Putin on March 5 in Istanbul or Ankara.

A Russian delegation will visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Idlib, an embattled province of northwestern Syria, the Turkish president said on Tuesday.

"We will try to draw up our roadmap by negotiating with Russia at the highest level," Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters ahead of an official visit to Azerbaijan.

Turkey is working closely with Russia to resolve issues in both Idlib and Libya, he added.

But Erdoğan criticized Russia's support for the Assad regime.

Erdoğan said Turkey is aware of Russia's strong assistance to regime forces, including air support, despite the Russian side's denials.

On the threats and crises over the Idlib issue, Erdoğan said Turkey must solve the crisis there at once.

"The country most affected by the Syrian crisis is Turkey, due to our 911-kilometer [566-mile] shared border," he said.

Stressing the nearly four million Syrian refugees taking shelter in Turkey, Erdoğan added that now there are millions of additional Syrian refugees close to Turkey's borders.

On his phone calls on Syria last Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron, Erdoğan said a new four-way summit may take place in March.

"Despite the lack of an agreement between Macron, Merkel, and Putin about the meeting, in the worst case, President Putin and I might meet on March 5 to discuss the latest developments," he said.

Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to about four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

Turkey has called for an immediate halt to the attacks on Idlib, and for the cease-fire to be followed, inviting the international community to take action.

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