Ankara and Moscow have restated their commitment to existing agreements in place to prevent further violence and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Idlib province, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry released the statement after a second day of talks between Russian and Turkish delegations in Moscow to reconcile their differences in Idlib, Reuters said.
Turkey and Russia agreed in 2018 to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib to prevent an offensive by the Syrian government on the last major rebel-held enclave, which is home to 3 million people, including hundreds of thousands displaced from elsewhere in the country.
Around 1 million people have fled Idlib to find shelter in areas close to the Turkish border after the Russia-backed Syrian forces last month intensified their assault. Moscow and Damascus maintain jihadist groups have expanded territories under their control as Turkey failed in driving extremists out of Idlib as part of the agreement.
“The ministry statement did not mention Turkey’s demand for Syrian government forces to pull back from the region, but said Idlib’s long-term security could only be achieved through Syria’s sovereignty and territorial independence,” Reuters said.
Earlier, Spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ömer Celik, said Turkey told the Russia delegation that Syrian forces must withdraw to behind a line of Turkish observation posts in Idlib to halt a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
Turkey has 12 observation posts in the province built under the 2018 deal with Russia and has been reinforcing its military presence in the region with armoured vehicles and additional troops.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın told reporters the reinforcement operation will continue.
“We will continue the deployment and fortification of troops in the area to ensure the safety of the region [Idlib] and the civilians there,” Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya cited Kalın as saying in Ankara on Tuesday.
“We did not accept the paper and map presented to us. These will be resolved through negotiation,” Kalin said, stating that there were no “satisfactory” results from the talks.