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SYRIA

Russia, Turkey agree on steps to ease tensions in Syria's Idlib

MAXIM SHIPENKOV / POOL / AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) speaks with his host Russian President Vladimir Putin as they visit the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Salon open day in Zhukovsky outside of Moscow on August 27, 2019
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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.

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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 sympathised 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 "normalise" the situation in Idlib, including measures aimed at rooting out "terrorists" there.

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."

Putin, speaking after talks with Erdogan, also said he and the Turkish leader had emphasised that Syria should remain a unified country.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
 

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