Turkish, Russian foreign ministers to discuss Syria, bilateral ties

Turkish, Russian foreign ministers to discuss Syria, bilateral ties

MOSCOW – Anadolu Agency
Turkish, Russian foreign ministers to discuss Syria, bilateral ties

Russia's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova gives a briefing on the current Russian foreign policy and international relations on Feb. 28. (ITAR-TASS News Agency / Alamy Live News)

The Turkish and Russian foreign ministers will meet in Turkey next week to plan for a high-level cooperation council in Moscow this April, Russian Foreign Ministry said on March 7.

The Russian-Turkish joint strategic planning group will meet in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya on March 12-13 co-chaired by Turkey's Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, said ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

The event will pave the way for the April 14 summit of the High-Level Cooperation Council in Russia, she told reporters in Moscow.

"A detailed exchange of opinions on all issues on the bilateral agenda is planned in the context of preparations for the next meeting of the leaders of the two countries and the upcoming meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council,” Zakharova said.

Foreign policy issues such as the Syrian and Ukrainian crises will also be discussed, Zakharova said.

Lavrov and Çavuşoğlu will also examine ways to boost the influence of Russian-Turkish cooperation in international organizations and sign a plan for foreign ministry consultations through 2020.

Russian, Turkish military 'work actively' in Idlib

Commenting on the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib, Zakharova said Russian and Turkish military continue "to work actively" for the full implementation of the memorandum on Idlib signed by the two countries.

"We expect that as a result of the implementation of agreements, reached by the two countries, it will be possible to reverse and stabilize the situation in and around Idlib, and neutralize the threat emanating from there," she said.

Last September, following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib are to remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey conduct joint patrols in the area to prevent renewed fighting.

Turkey committed to Syria territorial integrity: Russian FM
Turkey committed to Syria territorial integrity: Russian FM

Russia's call to close Rukban camp

Zakharova said the only way to deal with the prevailing humanitarian crisis in Syria's Al Rukban refugee camp is to close it.

Most of refugees in the camp are children under 5 years, women and elderly men who face diseases such as leprosy, cholera and tuberculosis, she said.

In a separate statement, Russian Defense Ministry reported growing number of group burials in the camp.

Located in the desert on the Syrian-Jordanian border, the Rukban camp is home to nearly 60,000 refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has reported growing numbers of casualties in the camp due to starvation, disease and lack of medicine.

US military 'active' around Venezuela

Zakharova said the number of the U.S. Air Forces flights near the Venezuelan borders has significantly increased last months.

“The sanctions and international activities against Caracas shows that the U.S. has not abandoned its plans to change the government in Venezuela,” she said.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10, when President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Tensions escalated when Juan Guaido, who heads Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself acting president Jan. 23, a move which was supported by the U.S. and many European and Latin American countries.

Turkey, Russia, Iran, Cuba, China, and Bolivia put their weight behind Maduro, who has vowed to cut all diplomatic and political ties with the U.S.

Russia's suspension of participation in INF Treaty

Russian Foreign Ministry has notified all the sides of the INF Treaty about Russia's suspension of its participation in the treaty on March 5, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.         

“Official notifications were sent to all the parties of the treaty - the U.S., Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine," she said.

Russia remains open for a "constructive dialogue" on the issue, she said.

In October 2018, U.S President Donald Trump announced the exit from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

In a tit-for-tat response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Feb. 2 that Moscow was suspending its obligations under the INF treaty - done legally March 4.

The treaty has been widely seen as a cornerstone of European security in the post-Cold War era after the U.S. and Russia signed it in 1987.

It prohibits both countries from possessing and testing ground launch missiles with a range between 300 – 3,100 miles (900 - 5,500 kilometers).

The prolongation of the last "pillar", the START Treaty, is currently under question as the U.S. links it with the INF Treaty.       

Contacts between warring sides in Libya

Zakharova welcomed contacts between heads of the Libyan warring parties, commander Khalifa Haftar and Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who held a meeting in Abu Dhabi on February 27 with the participation of UN Special Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salamé.

"Moscow positively perceives the contacts held in Abu Dhabi. We consider it important to continue the search of the leading Libyan figures with the support of the UN for mutually acceptable agreements in the interests of national reconciliation and stabilization in the country," she said.

Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-serving President Muammar Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.

Currently, two rival seats of power are vying for supremacy in Libya: an internationally recognized national unity government based in Tripoli, and a government supported by a legislative assembly based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Sergei Lavrov,