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Putin and Erdogan Agree for a New Ceasefire in Idlib

March 5, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Moscow summit meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ended with an agreement for a new ceasefire in Syria, taking effect for Turkish and Syrian forces at midnight tonight. According to Sputnik International, Erdogan said Turkey will send additional forces to Idlib province under the new agreement, but the status of Turkey’s “Operation Spring Shield” will be “changed.” He said that the Turkish army reserves the right to respond to any hostile actions of the Syrian forces, but assured that otherwise Turkish troops will simply monitor compliance with the ceasefire regime.

Putin, for his part, characterized the talks as “difficult” but said they nonetheless yielded a positive outcome. “Our close personal ties help to resolve various issues of bilateral cooperation and develop common approaches to regulation of key international issues,” he said. The talks lasted for six hours, the first three-and-a-half between Putin and Erdogan, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour session that also involved foreign and defense ministers, as well as other officials of both sides.

Putin set the tone for the talks at Erdogan’s arrival with a diplomatic but firm rebuke of Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Idlib province. “The situation in the Idlib zone in Syria has deteriorated so much that we need to have a direct and personal discussion,” he said, according to the Kremlin transcript.

“First of all, I would like to express our sincere condolences over the death of your military personnel in Syria. Loss of life is always a big tragedy. Regrettably, as I have told you by telephone, nobody, including the Syrian military, was aware of your troops’ location. At the same time, there were casualties among Syrian servicemen as well. The Syrian army reported major losses.”

“Therefore,” Putin concluded, “we need to discuss everything and analyze the current developments so that, first, this does not happen again and, second, that this does not damage Russian-Turkish relations, which I know that you value as well.”

Erdogan apparently replied with uncharacteristic humility. Instead of stressing Turkish claims in Idlib, he emphasized not letting the Idlib situation damage Russian-Turkish relations. “I know that the entire world is watching us today, and I think that the action and decisions we take today will definitely have a mitigating effect,” he said.

“This is a time when the relations between our countries have indeed reached a peak. Of course, this concerns the defense industry, trade, and other areas; they continue developing. We ... say that we need to make progress in this area. In fact, this is our biggest task, to move forward and develop our relations. I believe we will succeed.”

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