Russia and Turkey to hold talks over Syrian conflict

Moscow: Russian president Vladimir Putin will hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a tripartite summit with Iran “being prepared” in Tehran, the Kremlin said on Friday.

According to Turkish media, the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet for a third summit seeking an end to the Syrian conflict on September 7.

Private NTV television originally reported the summit would be held in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “the Iranian side went back to the option of Tehran.”

“The tripartite talks are being prepared in Tehran. It is therefore natural for Putin and Erdogan to use this tripartite format in order to continue their bilateral relations,” Peskov said.

The three leaders previously met in the Russian resort city of Sochi and the Turkish capital Ankara.

A major item on the summit agenda is expected to be the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib which president Bashar al-Assad wants to recapture, to crown a string of military successes.

Iran and Russia are the main allies of the Damascus regime and their military interventions in Syria are widely seen as tipping the balance of the seven-year civil war in the regime’s favour.

Turkey has backed rebels seeking to oust Assad but since late 2016 has been working closely with Iran and Russia to bring peace to Syria.

But Ankara has said a military operation to take Idlib risks provoking a humanitarian “catastrophe”, warning that 3.5 million people are crammed into the region.

Putin and Erdogan have spearheaded an unlikely but so far sustained partnership on Syria since late 2016, despite being in theory on opposite sides of the civil war.

Moscow and Ankara are currently in intense negotiations to ensure rebel-held Idlib does not become a breaking point in their alliance on Syria.