Ahead of Moscow Talks with Putin, Erdogan Expects Idlib Cease-fire
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday expressed optimism that a cease-fire in Syria’s Idlib Province would be achieved in the immediate aftermath of planned talks tomorrow in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The comments came after the Kremlin revealed that a set of principles and “joint measures” pertaining to the embattled region would be discussed during the tete-a-tete. Turkey this week launched a major military operation in Idlib against pro-Syrian government forces, which for months have been waging a fierce campaign to retake the war-torn country’s last major opposition-held bastion. Ankara supports the primarily Islamist rebels there and has deployed troops to northern Syria to prevent another mass wave of refugees from crossing the shared border, as well as to rid the area of US-allied Kurdish fighters. Erdogan considers those fighters an extension of the banned PKK, which is seeking autonomy for Turkish Kurds. Turkey’s latest move came after more than 30 of its soldiers were killed in bombardments attributed to the Assad regime. Since then, Turkish and Syrian soldiers have consistently clashed, thereby placing Russia – which backs Damascus and has been providing air support in Idlib – in a tricky situation. Beforehand, ties had warmed between Moscow and Ankara, which recently agreed to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system despite the threat of US economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the battle for Idlib has killed more than 300 civilians since December and forcibly displaced nearly one million others.