No miracles should be expected from Turkish-Russian Idlib talks - Russian official

Prior experience suggests that not much should be expected from planned talks between Turkish and Russian delegations to resolve tensions in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted a Russian high-ranking diplomatic source as telling the Vedomosti newspaper.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Wednesday that a Turkish delegation would head to Moscow in a short time to work for a permanent ceasefire in Syria’s last major rebel-held enclave where 13 Turkish soldiers were killed in a week by Syrian shelling.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Turkey would strike Syrian forces anywhere in case of a fresh attack on Turkish soldiers, after talks between Turkish and Russian officials over the weekend failed to resolve the situation in Idlib. 

The source told Vedemosti that Erdoğan had been using a harsher tone than usual against Moscow, adding that Turkey’s threats made the situation in Syria even worse. 

Erdoğan hopes that the issue will be resolved during the Turkish delegation’s upcoming visit to Moscow, the source said. “However, looking back at prior experience, no illusions should be expected here,” TASS quoted the source as saying. 

“Erdoğan’s statement, despite warlike rhetoric, already hints that he would not want to bring the situation into direct conflict with Damascus,” analyst Kirill Semenov of the Russian International Affairs Council told Russian newspaper Kommersant, adding that the Turkish president aimed at reaching a deal with Moscow until the end of February.

Turkey wants Russia to ensure the withdrawal of Syrian troops from positions beyond Turkey’s 12 observation posts in Idlib built under a 2018 agreement between Ankara and Moscow which aimed at establishing a demilitarised zone in the province.

Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad accuse Turkey of failing to fulfil its pledge to drive off jihadist fighters in Idlib.