Turkey Announces Erdogan, Putin Meeting in Istanbul

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pictured on September 7, will meet in Sochi on Monday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet and discuss bilateral issues with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an October 27 summit in Istanbul on the war in Syria, the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Tuesday, citing a top Russian diplomat.

Speaking at the 3rd international conference on “Russia and Turkey: Strengthening the Multi-faceted Partnership” in Moscow today, Andrey Buravov, deputy director of the European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, reportedly indicated that Erdogan and Putin would hold the bilateral meeting on October 27, AA noted.

“Another multilateral event with the participation of the presidents of our countries is being prepared in the near future, and a separate bilateral meeting is also planned in this context,” he added.

Putin, Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron are scheduled to discuss Syrian issues on October 27, including the political settlement process and further steps aimed at ending the civil war in the country that has been raging since March 2011.

The summit will focus on “the Syrian conflict with all its aspects, focusing on the situation on the ground, the Idlib agreement, and the political process, and to harmonize joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish presidency, declared, according to AA.

Although they are on opposite sides of the conflict, pro-opposition Turkey and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s ally Russia have worked together on trying to end the war in Syria.

The latest efforts by Russia and Turkey involves establishing a demilitarized zone in Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria.

Idlib is home to the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, considered the most potent wing of the terrorist group and the most influential jihadi organization in the province.

Under the agreement, Turkey and Russia were supposed to push out jihadi groups and their heavy weapons, but groups like the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls nearly two-thirds of Idlib, have refused to leave.

Turkey and Russia insist that the deal is holding, but the Independent reported that HTS is taking advantage of the Ankara-Moscow ceasefire to consolidate power in Idlib.

Citing the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that uses ground sources to monitor the war, the Independent reported:

A powerful Syrian rebel group has been accused of taking advantage of an internationally brokered ceasefire in the north of the country to carry out a wave of arrests against civilians.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist group that controls roughly two-thirds of Idlib province and counts former al-Qaeda-linked fighters in its ranks, has arrested 184 people since the beginning of September, according to a war monitor.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadis reportedly targeted activists who criticized the group, preacher, and aid workers.

“We recorded a significant escalation of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham violations in north Syria, where the group has raided a number of villages and arrested dozens of individuals, including local activists, relief workers, and mosque preachers,” the observatory declared

The crackdown comes nearly a month after Russia and Turkey reached a deal to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria that has been widely credited with preventing a devastating Russian and Iranian-backed Assad offensive against the last opposition-held part of Syria.

Under the agreement, Moscow and Ankara are expected to conduct joint patrols along the buffer zone’s perimeter, eliminate jihadist groups, withdraw heavy weapons, and implement a ceasefire between opposition forces and pro-Assad troops.


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