Kremlin Spokesperson Peskov said that Russia and Turkey are maintaining working communications at the expert level, primarily to discuss the crisis in Idlib, where Turkish armed forces are clashing with Syrian government troops
Erdogan fumes as 33 Turkish soldiers were killed an air strike by Syrian “regime forces” in north-western Syria
The Kremlin has denied that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 5 to discuss the Syrian situation.
“Putin has other work plans for March 5,” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday while commenting on a possible summit of Russian, Turkish, German and French leaders in Istanbul amid rising tensions in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
However, Peskov said that Russia and Turkey are maintaining working communications at the expert level, primarily to discuss the crisis in Idlib, where Turkish armed forces are clashing with Syrian government troops, Xinhua reported.
Last week, Erdogan said the quartet summit on the Idlib crisis would be held on March 5, and Peskov said later that Putin supported the idea of holding such a four-party meeting.
Meanwhile, BBC quoting a senior Turkish official says that at least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an air strike by Syrian “regime forces” in north-western Syria.
More were hurt in Idlib province, said Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey’s Hatay province. Other reports put the death toll higher.
Turkey later retaliated against Syrian government targets. Syrian forces supported by Russia are trying to retake Idlib from rebels who are backed by Turkish soldiers.
The Syrian authorities have so far made no public comments on the latest escalation in Idlib, the last Syrian province to remain in opposition hands. The Turkish military began hitting back at Syrian targets after President Tayyip Erdogan held an urgent top-level security meeting in Ankara late on Thursday.
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and senior Turkish military commanders immediately went to the Syrian border to direct a wave of ground and air attacks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
President Erdogan wants the Syrian government forces to pull back from positions where Turkey has set up military observation posts and earlier threatened to attack them if they did not halt their advance.
But Syria’s government and Russia have rejected his demand to pull back to ceasefire lines agreed in 2018. Russia has also accused Turkey of violating the 2018 ceasefire by backing rebels with artillery fire.
The UK-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 34 Turkish troops had been killed in Thursday evening’s air strike.
A spokesman for the US state department said in a statement: “We stand by our Nato ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces.
“We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed “grave concern” over the latest escalation, calling for an immediate ceasefire.