Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday a summit on the fifth of March with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany to discuss the situation in Idlib governorate, the last opposition stronghold in northwestern Syria.
The announcement comes the day after France and Germany called for a four-way summit on Syria with the aim of stopping the fighting and ending the humanitarian crisis, with the participation of the Turkish and Russian presidents.
“We will meet on the 5th of March to discuss these issues,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Izmir, after telephone consultations Friday with Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin, French Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Erdogan did not specify the venue of the summit, but assured reporters after Friday prayers that Macron and Merkel proposed to hold it in Istanbul, but Putin has not yet decided his position on this proposal.
The attack by the Syrian regime forces in the Idlib governorate has displaced about one million people.
The office of the German Chancellor had announced that Macron and Merkel expressed Friday “their willingness to meet President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan to try to find a political solution to the crisis.”
Diplomats revealed that Russia prevented on Wednesday a statement by the UN Security Council calling for an end to hostilities and respect for international humanitarian law in northwestern Syria.
Ankara is threatening to launch an “imminent” attack in Idlib after its forces have been bombed by the Syrian regime forces, and Damascus has been given until the end of this month to redeploy its forces.
And Saturday, a Turkish soldier was killed in a bombing of the Syrian regime forces in Idlib governorate, according to the Turkish Ministry of Defense.
She added that the Turkish army responded to this “disgraceful attack” by destroying 21 targets of the Syrian regime.
The death brings to 17 the death toll of the Turkish army in the confrontations that started in early February.
The ministry had announced before the latest attack that Defense Minister Khulsi Akar had discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoygo by means of finding a solution to the violence in Idlib.
Under an agreement with Russia, Turkey has set up 12 military observation posts in Idlib.
The activation of diplomatic efforts comes after the escalation of violence in Idlib led to mutual threats between Ankara and Moscow.
Russia, Syria’s biggest ally, Bashar al-Assad, has accused Turkey of not tackling “terrorist groups in Idlib,” which Ankara denies.
Idlib is under the control of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham (formerly Nusra) and its allies, and less influential armed factions are deployed.
And Saturday, Anatolia News Agency quoted the head of the Communication Department of the Turkish Presidency, Fakhreddin Alton, as saying that Russian support for the Assad regime had exacerbated the already tragic humanitarian situation in the region.
Ankara warns of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib and fears that developments in this border area will lead to a new wave of refugees pouring into its territory, as it currently receives 3.6 million Syrians.
“There is no reason to displace millions of innocent Syrians,” Alton said.
He stressed that Turkey is resolutely fighting terrorist groups in the region, adding that “Russia should not allow the Syrian regime to use terrorist groups as a pretext to carry out ethnic cleansing.”
On Friday, Erdogan urged his Russian counterpart to “curb” the Syrian regime’s attack on Idlib, stressing that the solution could be relied upon again in the Sochi Agreement aimed at sparing the region a large-scale attack.