Erdogan to visit Moscow after convoy hit in Syria

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Moscow on Tuesday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the presidency said in a statement, days after a Turkish convoy was hit by an air strike in Syria.

The surprise visit comes as the forces of President Bashar al-Assad made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria‘s northwest and upped the stakes with Turkey in its months-long offensive backed by Russia.

Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Moscow, the presidency said, without giving further details. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the Putin-Erdogan meeting on August 27 to the Russian agencies. 

He told the Interfax news agency that the talks would take place during the Maks international air show –about 40 kilometres (24 miles) from Moscow. 

Turkey is a vocal opponent of Assad in Damascus and instead backs rebels fighting for his ouster.

But Ankara last year struck a deal with Moscow to protect the Idlib province from a massive government offensive.

Turkish officials on Monday “strongly” condemned an air strike on its military convoy heading through Idlib province, saying it was a violation of agreements with Syria.

Ankara blamed “regime forces” for the attack which it said killed three civilians, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was carried out by Syrian and Russian air forces, and was aimed at hindering the convoy’s advance through Idlib province.

– ‘Mutual efforts’-

The announcement of the visit also comes shortly after Erdogan and Putin on Friday agreed to “activate mutual efforts” to ease the situation in Idlib, according to the Kremlin. 

“They agreed to activate mutual efforts with the goal of liquidating the terrorist threat coming from this region,” during a phone call initiated by Erdogan, it said.

According to the Turkish presidency, Erdogan told the Russian leader regime forces’ attacks in Idlib “very seriously” threatened Turkey’s national security and led to “a grave humanitarian crisis.”

“These attacks damage the efforts to regulate the Syrian conflict,” it said.

Erdogan is set to host Putin and Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, for a summit on Syria in Ankara on September 16.

Iran and Russia are allies of Assad, but work closely with Turkey for a political solution to the conflict.

Since late April, Syria and Russia have upped their bombardment of the jihadist-ruled Idlib region of some three million people, killing around 900 civilians.

Idlib sits on the Turkish border.

One of Turkey’s 12 observation posts set up along the front line between government forces and the jihadists and their rebel allies last year were surrounded by Syrian troops this week.

That drew Turkey’s wrath, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that Turkish troops would not leave the observation post.

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