Situation in Syria’s Idlib requires high-level talks, says Kremlin spokesman

TASS – The situation in Syria’s Idlib province requires a serious high-level discussion, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“The situation in Idlib is difficult, discussions will go on,” he said. “You know that several days ago, there were bilateral and trilateral discussions. Today, the conversation will continue because the situation is serious – let’s put it this way – there are some differences in approaches, so it requires serious high-level talks,” Peskov added.

At the same time, Kremlin spokesman said that there were no plans to arrange a new conversation between the Russian leader and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. However, in Peskov’s words, such a conversation cannot be ruled out because the situation on the ground requires intensive discussions. “So in case the need arises, everyone will hold telephone conversations,” he said.

Sochi talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are scheduled to hold a meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday to discuss the Syrian crisis. The meeting’s agenda particularly includes pressing issues concerning bilateral cooperation in resolving the issue. The two leaders are expected to focus on ways to separate militants active in Idlib from moderate opposition members and civilians, as well as on the possibility of a ground operation in the region.

Erdogan’s position

The Turkish president said earlier that he expected a positive discussion of the situation in Idlib with Putin and called for finding a solution to the issue together with Russia and the US-led coalition. “We have already held talks with Germany and France. We have been dealing with the issue together with Russia,” Erdogan said, adding that “consultations between leaders are definitely necessary.”

When explaining Turkey’s view on the Idlib issue, Erdogan said that Ankara and Moscow could “take joint steps against terrorists mingled with moderate opposition members.” “But let us not try to justify air strikes in the region,” he said.

Tehran summit

On September 7, the Iranian capital of Tehran hosted the third summit between the leaders of Iran, Russian and Turkey, who discussed measures for resolving the Syria issue, paying particular attention to the Idlib situation. Hassan Rouhani, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in the summit’s final declaration that the three countries were determined to continue cooperation until terrorism was completely eliminated and the situation in Syria stabilized. The Russian president stressed at the final press conference that driving militants out of Idlib was “a priority task at the moment.”

Situation in Idlib

Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms can move together with their families. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib currently hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).

In case Damascus succeeds in restoring control over Idlib, it will bring large-scale military activities in Syria to an end.

In the past two weeks, Turkey deployed additional troops, armored equipment, artillery and missile launcher systems to the border, particularly with Syria’s Idlib province, where Ankara established 12 observation points to monitor the situation in the de-escalation zone.