Ankara says talks with Russia on Syria warming but more needed
There was some rapprochement with Russia in talks about Syria’s Idlib region, but Turkey is not at the “desired point” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Feb. 20.
“It is true that at the moment, there are differences in the [two sides’] positions,” he said, speaking in a televised interview.
The Russian and Turkish delegations would hold further talks next week on how to reduce tensions in Syria’s Idlib province and that the Turkish and Russian leaders could meet too, if necessary.
Çavuşoğlu noted that in negotiations with Russia, documents indicating mutual positions were exchanged.
Syrian troops supported by Russian warplanes and special forces have been battling since December to eradicate the last rebel bastions in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in what could be one of the final chapters of the nine-year-old civil war.
The Syrian regime’s offensive has disrupted Ankara and Moscow’s fragile cooperation after 13 Turkish soldiers were killed by two separate Syrian attacks in the past two weeks. Turkey retaliated to both attacks, destroying several Syrian targets.
Ankara and Moscow have failed 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.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Feb. 19 that a Turkish military operation in Idlib to drive back a Russian-led Syrian government offensive that has displaced nearly a million people was a “matter of time” after talks with Moscow failed to reach a solution.
Turkish troops have already massed inside the Idlib region and more were heading to the border area, bringing NATO member Turkey and Russian-backed Syria close to the brink of direct confrontation.
Recalling Erdoğan’s remarks “We can come suddenly one night,” Çavuşoğlu said this statement is an expression of the determination of Turkey.
Çavuşoğlu said that the Sochi and Astana agreements, which were launched with the aim of establishing a ceasefire in Syria, did not disappear, but were harmed.
Asked about the U.S.’s supportive position over the Turkey-Russia tension in Idlib, Çavuşoğlu said, “If the U.S. shows this approach because of the problem we have with Russia, this sincerity is questioned, but we can say that they are sincere when they approach us like a true ally.”