Putin, Erdogan agree on need to boost efforts for Syria peace
Sochi, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Monday on the need to boost efforts to achieve a lasting political settlement in Syria.
During four hours of talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in southwest Russia, the two sides agreed on the need to do more to stabilise Syria, Putin said.
“We are united in the need to increase efforts to ensure the long-term stabilisation (of Syria), above all to advance the process of a political settlement,” the Russian leader said after the meeting.
“We agreed that there is now a base which allows us to focus on the political process,” said Erdogan.
The pair last met in Ankara in September, when they agreed to push for the creation of a ‘de-escalation’ zone in Syria’s key northern province of Idlib, in addition to others already proposed.
Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Moscow’s military intervention in Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict.
Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad’s ouster
“Our relationship has been restored almost to its full capacity,” Putin said ahead of the talks, adding that he was glad to see the Turkish leader.
Their efforts have helped bring about a de-escalation of violence in parts of Syria, though fighting continues.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journal- ists earlier that Ankara was seeking a political solution to the crisis.
“Without a ceasefire we cannot talk about a political solution. Now we have made a lot of achievements and we can pay more attention to the political process,” he said.
Moscow and Ankara have supported negotiations in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana from the start of the year, which have run parallel to talks taking place in Geneva with the backing of the United Nations.
Meanwhile in Syria, airstrikes that ripped through a market in a rebel-held town have killed 61 people, mostly civilians, an updated toll from a monitor said on Tuesday.
Three strikes hit the northern town of Atareb on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, despite a ‘de-escalation zone’ in place there.
“A number of people died of their wounds, bringing the toll to 61 people, including five children and three policemen.”
The Britain-based monitor said it was not clear whether the bombing raids had been carried out by Syrian government warplanes, or those of its ally Russia.
A photographer saw massive destruction at the scene on Monday, with rubble from damaged buildings covering the street and panicked civilians carrying away the wounded.
Atareb is in the west of Aleppo province, in an area that is part of a ‘de-escalation zone’ agreed under a deal reached earlier this year between Syria’s allies Russia and Iran, and rebel backer Turkey.
Smoke rises from buildings following a strike on a rebel-held area of the Jobar district, east of the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday