The leaders of Russia and Turkey said Tuesday they shared deep concerns over fighting in northwestern Syria, with Ankara warning it would take the steps necessary to protect its troops there.
After meeting for talks near Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they hoped to work together to ease tensions in Idlib province.
“The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is of serious concern to us and our Turkish partners,” Putin said at a joint press conference with Erdogan.
He sympathized with Turkey, saying: “We understand Turkey’s concern regarding the security of its southern border. We believe that these are legitimate interests.”
Putin said the two leaders had agreed “additional joint steps” to “normalize” the situation in Idlib, but did not provide details.
After months of heavy bombardment, the Russian-backed forces of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive this month against Idlib, the last major province of Syria outside government hands.
Troops from Turkey – which has backed some rebel groups against Assad – are stationed in Idlib as part of a buffer zone deal reached with Russia last year.
“The situation (in Idlib) has become so complicated that at this moment our troops are in danger,” Erdogan said.
“We do not want this to continue. All necessary steps will be taken here as needed.”