Russia-Turkey talks on Idlib productive,  but swift decisions needed - Russian ambassador

Talks held between Turkey and Russia on Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib earlier this month in Ankara were difficult, but productive and two sides must quickly make decisions regarding the region, Alexei Yerhov, the Russian Ambassador in Ankara, told Russian Sputnik news.

Ankara and Moscow, which support opposing sides in the war in Syria, have arrived at a place where they can openly express their views on the conflict and what can be done in region, Yerhov said.

A Russian delegation arrived in Ankara earlier this month to discuss ways to ease tensions in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where 13 Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian shelling in one week, but returned without reaching an agreement.

"Now we need to continue these efforts, these contacts, because the situation [in the region] is not easy and swift decisions are needed, “ the ambassador said.

The talks between the two sides arrive as Russia-backed Syrian forces last month intensified their assault in Idlib. Moscow and Damascus say jihadist groups have expanded territories under their control as Turkey failed in driving extremists off Idlib. 

Turkey and Russia agreed in 2018 to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib to prevent an offensive by the Syrian government on the last major rebel-held enclave, which is home to 3 million people, including hundreds of thousands displaced from elsewhere in the country. 

Some 800,000 people have fled Idlib to find shelter in areas close to the Turkish border since January.

A Turkish delegation is headed to Moscow on Monday for talks to ease tensions in the northwestern Syrian province.