'Terrorists' must be pushed out of Idlib, say Putin, Erdogan
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed that remaining "terrorists" from Syria’s Idlib province should be pushed out during their meeting on Wednesday.
Erdogan and Putin held their first face-to-face talks in 18 months at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, with the Syrian conflict high on their agenda.
"The sides underscored the necessity to fulfill [the previous agreements] in terms of pushing of terrorist elements from Syria’s Idlib, who are still present there, may pose a threat and carry out aggressive offensive actions against the Syrian army," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday.
"I do not have full details," the spokesman explained. "But this topic was indeed discussed. The sides confirmed their adherence to the previous agreements."
Last year Turkey and Russia agreed on a ceasefire deal for Idlib, the last major jihadist and rebel stronghold in northwest Syria.
Erdogan offered only vague comments on the two men's talks about northwestern Syria where regime troops and Moscow have increased airstrikes in recent weeks.
"We focused on the need to take steps together on the issue," Erdogan said and finding a "permanent, final and sustainable solution" for Idlib.
A UK-based war monitor said at least 11 fighters from a pro-Turkish rebel group were killed Sunday in Russian air raids outside the northern Syrian town of Afrin.
The Turkish and Russian leaders also discussed a number of other defence issues at their face-to-face meeting.
"We had the opportunity to discuss what steps we could take on plane motors, warplanes," the Turkish leader told journalists on his return to Turkey.
"Another area where we can take several steps together is on building boats. We will God willing take joint steps even on submarines," he added, NTV broadcaster reported.
The two men even spoke about Turkey-Russia cooperation in space, Erdogan said.
His comments will raise eyebrows in the West and especially in the United States, after Washington slapped sanctions on Turkey last year over its multi-billion-dollar purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air defence system.
The US also expelled Turkey from the F-35 programme under which Western allies produce the next-generation fighter jet's parts and secure its early purchasing rights.
Ankara was expecting as many as 100 of the stealth fighter jets, and multiple Turkish suppliers were involved in the construction.
Erdogan reaffirmed Turkey's commitment to the S-400, vowing Ankara "would not take a step back" from the purchase, but called on the US to either give the planes Turkey ordered or return its $1.4 billion payment.