No consensus with Russian delegation on Idlib yet, Turkish FM says
Turkish and Russian delegations have resumed meetings on Feb. 10 to resolve Syria’s Idlib dispute, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, underlining that talks would continue at the leaders’ level if today’s negotiations fail to bring about a solution.
There has been no consensus with the visiting Russian delegation at the talks on Feb. 8, regarding the escalating situation in Idlib, the minister said, speaking at a press conference with visiting Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar.
“If a compromise had been reached, there would have been no need for today’s meeting,” he told reporters.
Two parties exchanged their proposals in Saturday’s talks, the minister noted. Between the two sessions, the Russian delegation visited Jordan and came back to Turkey, Çavuşoğlu added.
He recalled that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed that Turkey would take the necessary measures if the regime continues its aggression in Idlib.
“It is not possible to talk about the political process, the constitutional commission, while the regime remains aggressive, so many civilians die and have to leave their home,” Çavuşoğlu said.
He noted that if parties fail to yield a result in the talks in Ankara. The Russian and Turkish leaders can meet in the upcoming days.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal chaired the Turkish delegation comprising representatives from the Defense Ministry, General Staff and National Intelligence Organization. The Russian side -- chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev – comprised representatives from military and intelligence circles.
Meanwhile, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey will pay a visit to Turkey on Feb. 12 for discussions on Idlib.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air cover, have been advancing into the last rebel-held areas of Idlib and nearby Aleppo countryside, seizing dozens of towns and sparking a large-scale humanitarian crisis, with some 600,000 people fleeing from their homes toward safer areas near the border with Turkey.
The death toll from Sunday’s Russian airstrikes in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province has risen to 26, according to the White Helmets civil defense agency on Feb. 10. The Syrian opposition aircraft observatory said the areas near Idlib’s city center and villages were targeted. Earlier, it was reported that 17 people had been killed when Russian warplanes struck opposition-held areas in Idlib’s Sheikh Ali, Atarib, Kafr Nouran villages on Sunday. On Monday, the White Helmets said the airstrikes also killed nine civilians in Ibbin village.
On Feb. 3, an attack led by the regime in Idlib killed seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor working with the Turkish military and injured over a dozen people. The fighting led to the collapse of a fragile cease-fire that was brokered by Turkey and Russia.
Turkey sent hundreds of military vehicles and troops into Idlib province in the past week.
Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn the province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.