February 11, 2019 / 2:13 PM / 8 days ago

Russia, Turkey agree on decisive action in Syria's Idlib: RIA

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Turkey agreed on Monday that they needed to take decisive measures to stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib province after talks between the two country’s defense ministers, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Ankara, Turkey February 11, 2019. Turkish Military/Turkish Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

The announcement, made after talks between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in Ankara and outlined in a joint statement, did not specify what the decisive measures would be or when they might be taken.

The statement was released ahead of a Syrian summit between the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran in Russia on Thursday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this year said Moscow had floated the idea of Russia and Turkey mounting a joint operation to push militants out of Idlib, but did not say how Ankara felt about the idea.

Monday’s statement, as reported by RIA, spoke of “the need in particular to take decisive measures to ensure security in the Idlib demilitarized zone.”

“Despite provocations, we underlined the importance and need to continue partnerships between our two countries’ intelligence and military forces to establish peace and to support stability in Idlib,” it said.

Russia, one of the Syrian government’s staunchest allies, and Turkey brokered a deal in September to create a demilitarized zone in the northwest Idlib region that would be free of all heavy weapons and jihadist fighters.

The deal helped avert a government assault on the region, the last major bastion of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Moscow has complained about escalating violence in the area and said that militants who used to belong to the Nusra Front group are in control of large swaths of territory.

Moscow last week called on Turkey to do more to tackle militants there.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; writing by Tom Balmforth/Andrew Osborn; editing by Andrew Osborn

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