Turkey, Russia to discuss Syrian refugees, Libya conflict
According to diplomatic sources, the Turkish delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, traveled to Moscow weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Turkey on Jan. 8, 2020.
The meeting’s agenda is expected to be dominated by recent developments in Syria and Libya, where the nations have some opposing views.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 22 voiced concern over intensified Russian attacks with the regime forces in the northwestern region of Idlib, saying more than 80,000 civilians have started fleeing to places near the Turkish border.
Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad has vowed to recapture Idlib, the last stronghold of rebel forces in the war-torn country.
During his speech Erdoğan, also announced that a delegation will visit Moscow on Dec. 23. Ankara will determine the steps it will take after the delegation-level talks, he said.
“We are putting up every effort with Russia for the attacks to stop, and we will continue to do so. In fact, we are sending a delegation to Moscow,” Erdoğan said.
“They will hold meetings, and we will determine the steps we will take depending on the results,” he added.
Turkey currently hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees and has repeatedly said the “burden has become too much.” Erdoğan had also accused the international community and Western nations of leaving Turkey alone and not providing the financial aid they promised for the care of Syrian refugees.
Turkey has backed the Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad in the country’s more than eight-year civil war, while Russian and Iran support Assad’s forces. Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have been working to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
The delegation is also expected to discuss Turkey’s potential troop deployment and military support to Libya, after Ankara and Tripoli hammered a military cooperation deal last month. Russia said it was very concerned about the possibility of Turkey deploying troops in Libya and that the security deal raised many questions for Moscow.
As in Syria, Ankara and Moscow have their differences on Libya as well as Turkey’s support of the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, whereas Russia is in favor of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
On Dec. 23, Erdogan said Turkey may increase military support to al-Sarraj’s GNA, which has been fighting off a months-long offensive by the forces of Haftar in the east of Libya.