Kremlin says Erdoğan commits to fighting terror as Syria tensions mount

(Updates story with Turkish official on Erdoğan-Putin meeting in fourth paragraph.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke by telephone on Friday to try to diffuse a mounting crisis in Syria, with both leaders reaffirming their commitment to fighting international terrorist groups, according to Russian state media.

Putin and Erdoğan agreed that extra measures were needed to normalise the situation in the Syrian province of Idlib, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Kremlin.

Russia and Turkey are seeking to avoid direct military confrontation in Idlib, which has become more likely after at least 34 Turkish soldiers died in air strikes on Thursday. Syrian and Turkish forces have been embroiled in a military conflict in the area over the past two weeks, with Russia and Syria accusing Ankara of backing Islamist extremists in the last rebel-held enclave. Erdoğan says Turkish forces are in Idlib to protect his country’s borders and prevent a massacre of civilians.

Putin and Erdoğan shared serious concerns about the situation in Idlib and agreed to consider the possibility of holding a top-level meeting in the near future, Interfax said, citing the Kremlin. The two leaders have agreed to meet soon, said Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan's communications director, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkey should start fulfilling an agreement with Russia signed in the Russian city of Sochi in late 2018, in which it vowed to deal with extremists, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to the news wire. Russia remains fully committed to the agreements, he said.

Turkey says Assad’s Russian-backed army has advanced beyond geographical lines agreed in Sochi and says it surrounded Turkish military observation posts in Idlib.