Russia and Turkey are planning a new series of consultations regarding Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 24.
Moscow hopes both countries can agrees on ways to turn Idlib into a “de-escalation zone,” free of “terrorists,” Lavrov said at a press conference.
"Now the next series of consultations is being prepared, which we hope will be able to lead us [Russia and Turkey] to an agreement on how to ensure that this [Idlib] really is a de-escalation zone and that terrorists do not control it," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Sputnik.
Lavrov also said that within the framework of the agreements reached between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia's Vladimir Putin, Moscow had never promised that “terrorists would not be retaliated” if they themselves initiated attacks.
"Nobody ever agreed, within the framework of the agreements reached between the Russian and Turkish presidents, that terrorists would not be retaliated if they act in the way they began to act, so there was nothing unexpected for anyone," Lavrov said.
“I’m sure that the Turkish servicemen who work on the ground see and understand everything. Especially, considering that fact that on many occasions the terrorists attacked our position, the positions of the Syrian military and civilian infrastructure from the very location where the Turkish observation posts are set up,” he further said.
Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara after 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in three separate attacks in Idlib.
There has been no concrete agreement regarding the Idlib conflict between Russia and Turkey after two rounds of talks between their respective delegations in Ankara and Moscow earlier this month.Erdoğan tells Putin full implementation of Sochi deal necessary for Idlib
On Feb. 21, Erdoğan and Putin discussed the Idlib conflict during a telephone conversation. The two countries said their militaries would continue to maintain close contact.
Erdoğan emphasized the necessity to control Syrian government forces and halt a humanitarian crisis in Idlib during the phone call, the Turkish presidency said.
It said Erdoğan also told Putin that full implementation of an agreement reached in Sochi, Russia in 2018 would bring an end to fighting in the rebel-controlled area.