Turkey and Russia leaders discuss Syria's Idlib

Turkey and Russia leaders discuss Syria's Idlib
A Syrian regime offensive on Idlib appears to be on hold, with Turkey and Russia leaders meeting to discuss the future of the opposition province.
2 min read
17 September, 2018
Turkey has bolstered its military positions in Syria [AFP]
Turkey and Russia leaders will meet Monday to discuss the Syrian regime's planned offensive on Idlib province, which appears to have been put on hold. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin held talks at the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where tensions around the last Syrian province under opposition control were discussed.

"The situation with Idlib is acute," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti news agency on Monday, before the talks took place.

"There are certain differences in approaches [between Erdogan and Putin", he added.

Russia has been a firm backer of the Syrian regime since Damascus launched an offensive on peaceful protesters - and then an armed uprising - providing weaponry, military advisers, and from 2015 air support to the besieged government.

Turkey remains a supporter of the Syrian opposition, and has reportedly flooded Idlib with weapons for moderate rebel groups.

Ankara has also bolstered its observation posts on the edges of the province, as expectations of a regime offensive on Idlib grew last week.

Turkey's Erdogan has also warned of a bloodbath if the regime - backed by Russia and Iran - went ahead with its assault.

Some had hinted that an agreement between the two countries on Idlib would likely revolve around expelling the formerly al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group from Idlib.

Turkey has been helping build a unified moderate rebel force in Idlib known as National Front for Liberation, as a counter-weight to HTS.

"Let's take steps together and take measures against terror groups among the opposition, but not be in a position of bombing there on pretexts," Erdogan said this weekend.

He also sent a message to Russia saying Ankara would oppose any regime offensive.

"If you [Russia] are invited by the regime, we are invited by the Syrian people. This is the difference. We do not recognise the regime. We recognise the Syrian people," he said.

Agencies contributed to this story.