Russian President Vladimir Putin has said on Thursday that Moscow, Iran and Turkey had agreed to take some additional steps in order to clear Idlib region of Syria, what he considered it “a hotbed of terrorist”, but Kremlin has said there would be no involvement of military operations in that region.
According to Reuters news reports, after hosting a conference in southern Russia aimed at future of Syria with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Putin, who is one of the closest allies to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has outlined his remark over Syria’s Idlib region. All three countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran – have their military presence in Syria.
But tensions between Ankara and Moscow over Syria has risen during these recent months, fueled in part by the United States President Donald Trump’s announcement regarding withdrawal of American troops from Syria.
The Kremlin, before the summit, had made it clear that it wanted a green signal to launch strong actions in Idlib where they believe resides Islamist militants and group.
Putin told Rouhani and Erdogan: “… We should not put up with the presence of terrorist groups in Idlib. That’s why I propose we consider practical concrete steps that Russia, Turkey and Iran can take to completely destroy this hotbed of terrorists.”
Just before the closing of the summit, Putin stated all three countries had agreed to undertake unspecified additional steps but did not explain it. Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies no military intervention or operation against Idlib would be taken on.
However, Erdogan did not respond to Putin’s suggestion of the joint plan but said Turkey would continue to take every possible step to stabilize Idlib.
Russia is keen to support Syrian president Assad to retake territory from militants and rebels, but Ankara, which called upon Assad to leave his power, has successfully so far pushed backed.
It had brokered a deal with Moscow last year’s September to enforce demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region.
Putin’s difficulty has been to persuade Erdogan to sign off on a deal that would be Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in the region that border Turkey.
Ankara was concerned about the potential refugee flows from the Idlib region during the military operation and thus wants to hold its influence over there. Also, it doesn’t want any development in that region to distract from its own original plan to set up a safe zone in Syrian northeast.
Earlier on Thursday, Moscow told Turkey that it had no rights to create such a safe zone in the northeast region of Syria unless it sought to receive the consent of Assad.
Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova, over Turkish safe zone plan, said, “The question of the presence of a military contingent acting on the authority of a third country on the territory of a sovereign country and especially Syria must be decided directly by Damascus. That’s our base position.”