Senior Turkish officials told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin that when they met on Wednesday, Turkey and Russia agreed to maintain the status quo in Syria’s Idlib region.
Erdogan met Putin in the Russian resort of Sochi. At the time, attacks in Idlib increased and Russian fighters attacked opposition strongholds near Turkish military bases.
In March 2020, Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire agreement that made Idlib a “conflict-affected zone”, but in recent weeks the agreement has faced aerial and ground bombardment of rebel-controlled positions.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar warned Moscow earlier this week that air strikes on opposition-held areas were killing civilians and radicalising locals.
“We expect Russia to uphold the deals we made,” he said.
More than 3 million Syrian refugees are trapped in Idlib and there are concerns that further attacks by Syria and Russia could push them into Turkish territory, where public attitudes towards them have grown stronger.
Earlier this week, Turkish officials told multiple news organizations that Erdogan would put pressure on Putin over the Syrian issue, especially the Idlib issue, as well as the Syrian Kurdish People’s Guard’s attack on Turkey-controlled areas.
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been embroiled in a deadly war with the party for three years.
“There is no change in Idlib. We will preserve the status-quo there,” the senior Turkish official told MEE after the meeting.
It was not immediately clear whether Turkey agreed to any concessions to preserve the current understanding in Idlib.
“The steps we take together regarding Syria carry great importance. The peace there is dependent on Turkey-Russia ties,” Erdogan told Putin at the start of their talks.
Erdogan did not bring his ministers to Sochi, only his senior adviser Ibrahim Kalin, communications director Fahreddin Alton and intelligence director Hakan Fidan.
Erdogan and the Russian president met in the absence of anyone else, and it is believed that they discussed the possibility of buying the Russian S-400 in the second round, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and Libya.
Erdogan clearly mentioned the United States and he told Putin that he wanted to discuss further defense cooperation regardless of Washington’s opposition.
“At the UNGA [UN General Assembly], the typical persons especially asked us about certain issues specifically of course,” Erdogan told Putin.
“We gave them the necessary response anyway. It is not possible for us to turn back from the steps we took. I especially believe this: it is of great importance for us to continue by strengthening Turkey-Russia ties every day.”
Late last year, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, and expelled Ankara from the NATO-led F-35 advanced fighter development program.