Moscow and Ankara must work out a “positive approach” to tackle the Idlib crisis in Syria, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said ahead of holding talks with President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
The Turkish president noted that Putin demonstrated a positive stance on September 7 when the two discussed Idlib with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran. “I hope [Putin] will continue the positive stance also going forward,” Erdogan said, the Daily Sabah reported.
Erdogan asserted that all parties must seek common ground. “The outcome of our meeting with Mr Putin will be important,” he told reporters on Monday. “If the situation in Idlib continues as is, the results will be heavy. We have to find a solution with Russia and [the US-led] coalition forces without letting this happen.”
The leaders are set to hold talks in Sochi, south Russia to seek a common strategy on Idlib ahead of a possible Syrian government offensive. The situation on the ground is “complicated,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, acknowledging that Moscow and Ankara have “certain differences in approach” towards Idlib.
The disagreements between the nations were highlighted at the Tehran summit.
Turkey had called for a ceasefire in Idlib Province, warning of a possible high civilian death toll and a massive refugee influx into Turkey in the event of a large-scale government offensive.
In turn, the Russian president stressed in Tehran that Idlib Province is predominantly held by terrorist groups, such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, which poses a threat to the whole region.
“The terrorists are making attempts to undermine the ceasefire. Furthermore, they conduct various provocations, including those using chemical weapons,” Putin told reporters on September 7. He also noted that militants in Idlib had launched numerous attacks against both Russian and Syrian troops, as well as civilians.
While insisting that jihadists should be separated from “moderate opposition” in the region, Turkey vowed to cooperate with all nations in combating terrorism. “We fight against all terror groups. Similarly, we fight against terrorism in Idlib,”Erdogan said.