Leaders of Russia, Turkey meet to discuss Syria’s Idlib

September 17, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — The presidents of Russia and Turkey were meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday in a bid to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis around a rebel-held region in Syria.

The province of Idlib in the country’s north-west is the last stronghold of Syrian rebels, and Turkey has been eager to prevent a potential government offensive there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday was meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in just 10 days after Russia and Iran expressed support for the idea of an offensive.

Russia calls Idlib a hotbed of terrorism and says the Syrian government has the right to retake control of it. Turkey has appealed to Russia and Iran, its uneasy negotiating partners, for a diplomatic resolution to the ticking bomb. At the same time, it has sent reinforcements to its troops ringing Idlib, a move designed to ward off a ground assault, at least for now.

Putin and Erdogan sat down for talks Monday afternoon. Putin told Erdogan in opening remarks carried by Russian news agencies that he and Erdogan will be “looking for solutions where there are none right now,” without mentioning Idlib by name.

Erdogan in his reply expressed hope that the joint statement that the two leaders are expected to make later on Monday will be “a different hope for the whole region.” It was quiet in Idlib and surrounding areas Monday, a continuation of the calm that started less than a week ago amid Russia-Turkey talks.

Idlib and surrounding areas is home to over 3 million Syrians, and an estimated 60,000 rebel fighters.

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