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Erdogan to meet Putin in Russia this week to discuss soaring Syria tensions

Russia and Turkey have cooperated on the Syrian conflict despite backing opposing sides [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 March, 2020

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The two leaders are due to meet after the Moscow-backed Syrian regime killed more than 30 Turkish soldiers, sparking a new military operation by Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia on Thursday for a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss mounting tensions in Syria, his office said on Monday. 

"The president is due to pay a one-day visit to Russia on March 5," the Turkish presidency said in a statement. 

In a televised speech to members of his party, Erdogan added: "I hope that he [Putin] will take the necessary measures there, such as a ceasefire, and that we will find a solution to this affair."

Russia attaches "great importance to cooperation with our Turkish partners", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

"Our militaries are in constant contact. The main thing is that we now focus on negotiations between Putin and Erdogan," he said.

Operation 'Spring Shield'

Turkey confirmed on Sunday that it had launched a full military operation, dubbed Operation Spring Shield, against Russian-backed Syrian regime forces following deadly clashes last month.

Ankara killed 19 Syrian troops in drone strikes on Sunday and downed two regime planes, the Turkish defence ministry said, as well as destroying three of Damascus' air defence systems in the embattled Idlib province.

Turkish drones have led a fierce assault on forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad since the deaths of 34 Turkish troops in an Idlib airstrike blamed on the regime last week.

But Ankara remains determined to avoid direct clashes with the regime's key backer Moscow, with which it shares significant defence and trade ties. 

Despite being on opposing sides of the conflict, Turkey and Russia have coordinated closely in the past. It was their brokering of a 2018 deal in Sochi that led to Turkey establishing a dozen military observation posts in Idlib to prevent a regime offensive and a fresh inflow of refugees into Turkish territory.

Despite mounting threats from Ankara, Damascus and Moscow are determined to regain full control of Idlib, the country's last opposition bastion. Intensified fighting and aerial bombardment since December has displaced close to a million civilians.

Syrian 'shot dead' at Turkey-Greece border

In a bid to force Western countries to give Turkey more assistance with the Syrian conflict and its humanitarian conflict, Erdogan opened Turkey's western borders with Greece and Bulgaria last week, allowing refugees and migrants a path to Europe.

More than 13,000 refugees and migrants have since gathered on the Turkish side of the border.

The Turkish president on Monday vowed to keep the doors open even as Greek forces said they would hold live fire training exercises across the length of the country's borders.

One Syrian refugee was shot dead on Monday by Greek border police blocking the entry of migrants into the country, BBC World Service reporter Mughira Al Sharif said.

Erdogan has warned Europe that it will have to shoulder its part of the migrant "burden", vowing that Turkey would continue to allow refugees to leave its territory.

"I told them 'it's done. It's finished. The doors are now open. Now, you will have to take your share of the burden'," he said on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this report

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