Russia and Turkey have reached an understanding on taking further steps over Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday.
Three major topics were discussed at today’s meeting in Moscow between high-powered Turkish and Russian officials — including the foreign and defense ministers, and presidential aides — on the Syrian peace process, he said.
Headlining the meeting were the search for solutions to humanitarian issues, including the repatriation of refugees, the situation on the ground after the U.S. withdrawal. and the launch of the political process, he said.
“First, we discussed solutions to humanitarian issues, the creation of conditions for the return of refugees,” Lavrov said, adding: “Special attention was paid to the new situation developing in connection with the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria.”
“And an understanding was reached on how the military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue to coordinate their steps on the ground amid the new conditions, with a view to the final eradication of the terrorist threat on Syrian soil,” he added.
Both Turkey and Russia once again stressed unconditional respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Lavrov added.
“Secondly, concrete measures were outlined to intensify our joint work aimed at creating conditions that will allow more refugees to return to their homes,” he said.
“The third theme was the political process,” he said.
“It was launched by the guarantor countries of the Astana platform and received additional impetus thanks to the Congress of the National Dialogue in Sochi,” he added, stressing that Russia. Turkey and Iran “have done everything they promised to do to form a constitutional committee” expected to start its work early next year in Geneva.
In addition to Lavrov, attending the meeting in Moscow were Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, and presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin along with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, and presidential aide Yuri Ushakov.
Before the meeting, Cavusoglu said that they came to Russia to discuss the latest developments in Syria, and that Turkey, Russia, and Iran have close cooperation over Syria in the format of talks that began in Astana, Kazakhstan.
“Thus we’ve made important progress in many fields on the political process,” Cavusoglu said.
“With our Russian partners, we will discuss what we can do in Syria. Especially our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent us as he puts great emphasis on our relations with Russia on regional topics,” he added.
“We will have the opportunity to discuss once again the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone and in the demilitarization zone,” said Shoygu, for his part.
“In addition, we will talk about implementation of the agreements that we reached in Istanbul, the work done after that, as well as everything related to the Eastern Euphrates,” he added, referring to an expected Turkish counter-terrorism in Syria targeting the YPG/PKK.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.