Ankara says ‘return to Sochi deal’ core policy in Syria

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Turkey‘s presidential spokesman said on Feb. 18 that Ankara’s policy in Idlib, the restive Syrian province, is based on the 2018 Sochi deal reached with Russia.

“Returning to the Sochi deal is the baseline of Turkey’s policy for Idlib,” Kalın told reporters in the capital Ankara, as meetings concluded between Turkish-Russian delegations on Idlib in Moscow.

Tensions in the region have escalated after Syrian regime attacks in Idlib killed 12 Turkish troops, who are in northwestern Syria, just across the Turkish border, as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed the Sochi deal on Sept. 17, 2018 based on which both sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.

The regime and Russian attacks were paused momentarily after the deal and almost 80,000 displaced Syrians returned to their homes. But the regime forces and its ally Russia, resumed their attacks on residential areas in a blatant violation.

More than 1,800 civilians have since been killed due to artillery fires and airstrikes.

Regarding the meeting in Moscow, Kalın said they could not reach a breakthrough, adding that Turkey rejected proposed documents and maps by Russia.

“The mutual agreement reached today is to continue negotiations,” he said.

Kalın underlined that some statements of Russian officials “do not reflect the reality”.

“We observe that there are some remarks like ‘The map [of Syria] needs to be redrawn considering the changing conditions.’ I would like to correct this point here. First, the changing conditions are imposed conditions, not the realities of the field.”

He said the borders of the demilitarized area in Idlib and the locations of Turkey’s observation posts were determined two years ago.

Kalın said changing the location of Turkey’s observation posts in Idlib is “out of question”, adding that Ankara will continue military support and dispatches to safeguard Idlib and the civilians.

He warned of a resounding response in case of a fresh attack on Turkish soldiers “as we did in the last few weeks”.

‘Russia, Turkey agree to adhere to treaties on Syria’

Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey agreed to adhere to existing agreements on Syria during talks in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Feb. 18.

The delegations of the two countries held two-day talks in which they agreed to continue efforts to deescalate tensions and ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria, while continuing their fight against terrorism, the ministry said in a statement published on its website.

“It was noted that achieving long-term security and stability in Idlib and other parts of Syria is ultimately possible only on the basis of a commitment to the country’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity,” it said.

In addition, both delegations stressed the importance of advancing the political process of resolving the crisis in Syria, led and implemented by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN, as provided for in the UN Security Council resolution, it said.

Hurriyet Daily News

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