ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister said Thursday that Turkey and Russia have inched closer toward each other’s positions during talks in Moscow this week on restoring calm in northwestern Syria, but that their discussions have not produced the results yet that Ankara desires.
The diplomat, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Russian and Turkish delegations would hold further talks on how to reduce tensions in Syria’s Idlib province and that the Turkish and Russian leaders could meet too, if necessary.
“It is true that at the moment, there are differences in the (two sides’) positions,” Cavusoglu told state television TRT. The delegations narrowed their differences a bit but “are not yet at the point we want” to be at, he added.
Cavusoglu’s comments came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of an imminent military operation to force the Syrian government forces to retreat.
“We could enter (Idlib) suddenly one night,” Erdogan told legislators from his ruling party on Wednesday.
The Syrian government forces have, for weeks, been conducting a crushing military campaign to recapture parts of the last rebel-held areas in Idlib province as well as the countryside of neighboring Aleppo province. The swift advances on multiple fronts have triggered the largest single wave of displacement in the nine-year civil war, with nearly 1 million people driven from their homes toward the Turkish border.
The advance has strained cooperation between Moscow and Ankara — which have been working together despite supporting opposing sides in the Syria conflict — and led to direct clashes between Syrian and Turkish troops.
Turkey and Russia have closely coordinated their moves in recent years in Idlib province. A truce reached between the two countries collapsed in late 2019, leading to the current Syrian offensive, backed by Russia.
Russian officials have said they hold Turkey responsible for the collapse of the cease-fire deal struck in Sochi, Russia, saying Ankara had not held up its end of the deal to rein in militants in Syria who continued attacking Syrian and Russian targets.