Russia ready to continue work on Idlib with Turkey: Lavrov
Russia is ready to continue talks with Turkey at any level on the tense situation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, the country's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.
The two-day consultations between the delegations of the countries, held in Moscow this week, ended without a conclusion, Lavrov said, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, following a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.
"We have not put forward any new conditions [at the talks with Turkey]. We believe we need to implement all that our leaders had agreed on," Lavrov said.
The minister called the condition to separate the opposition from terrorists "a key agreement on Idlib", adding that terrorists cannot be part of the cease-fire.
Another point Russia insists on is to withdraw all the heavy weapons and militants form the demilitarized zone, situated in the Idlib de-escalation zone, he added.
Speaking about the attacks of regime forces in Idlib, Lavrov claimed they responded to the provocations, and that such moves do not violate the agreements on cease-fire in Idlib.
He also argued that Damascus took control over M4 and M5 highways, in line with Putin and Erdoğan's agreement on Idlib.
"I speak about this in such detail, because the coverage of what is happening gives the impression that no one remembers what was agreed in September 2018 and October 2019. According to comments of some Western representatives, we can get the impression that in Idlib at the time, Russia and Turkey agreed to simply freeze the situation, not touch the terrorists there, allow them to do what they want, firing at everything from this so-called de-escalation zone," he said.
Lavrov stressed that no one has ever promised the terrorists that they will be safe in the Idlib zone.
"We will continue to look at the current situation with our Turkish colleagues, at ways to implement what we agreed on, not in terms of recreating the original situation a year and a half ago, but in terms of implementing the agreements in terms of the results I mentioned.
"We are ready to work at any level, including at the highest level, as stated in [Kremlin spokesman] Dmitry Peskov's comments. But so far, I have not seen any instructions to prepare the presidential meeting," he said.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his party's parliamentary group that launching Turkey's cross-border operation to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib is only a "matter of time".
Meetings with Russian officials on ending the bloodshed in Idlib have failed to produce results, ending "far from what Turkey wants," said Erdoğan.
On Feb. 10 five Turkish troops were martyred and five injured in an attack by Assad regime forces in Idlib, following a similar attack just last week martyring seven soldiers and a civilian contractor working with the Turkish military.
Turkey has since retaliated for both attacks, hitting scores of targets and neutralizing over 200 Assad regime troops.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.