Russia's Putin and Turkey's Erdogan sit for talks on war-torn Syria

The meeting lasted for three hours and neither leader made a statement after the talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after their meeting in Sochi. Photo: AFP
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Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks on Wednesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which were expected to focus on war-torn Syria.

It was the first in-person meeting for Mr Putin in more than two weeks. On September 14, the Russian president went into self-isolation after a staff member he worked closely with contracted coronavirus. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Mr Putin’s two-week self-isolation ended on Wednesday.

As the two leaders sat down for talks, Mr Putin said relations between the two countries continued to “develop positively”.

“Negotiations are sometimes difficult, but with a positive final result. Our [government] bodies have learnt to find compromises that are beneficial to both sides,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Erdogan echoed that sentiment and said he believed “there is great benefit in continuing our Turkish-Russian relations by strengthening them every day.”

Russia is the main ally of the Syrian government while Turkey supports groups that have fought to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad.

However, Russian and Turkish troops have co-operated in Idlib, the final holdout of rebel forces, and in seeking a political solution in the country.

“Peace [in Syria] depends on the relations between Turkey and Russia,” the Turkish leader told Mr Putin.

The talks between the two presidents come amid an increase in air strikes on Turkey-backed opposition fighters’ positions in northern Syria, especially in the province of Idlib.

Last year, Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire agreement that halted a three-month Syrian government offensive in Idlib and also saw rare direct fighting between Syrian and Turkish troops.

That Russia-backed offensive killed hundreds of civilians and displaced nearly one million people in Idlib province.

Turkey fears that an escalation of the violence in northern Syria will lead to a new influx of refugees surging across its borders. Turkey already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

Russia has accused Turkey of failing to take measures to push out extremist groups from northern Syria.

Earlier this month, Mr Putin met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Moscow and criticised the presence of Turkish and US forces in northern Syria, calling their presence a flagrant breach of international law.

The Russian leader was referring to hundreds of US troops stationed in eastern Syria who are working with Kurdish-led fighters in battling ISIS, as well as Turkish forces in northern Syria.

The war in Syria broke out in March 2011. It has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million people, including more than five million refugees outside the war-torn nation.

The talks between Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan on Wednesday lasted for about three hours, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported.

The two leaders didn’t make any statements after the talks, but Erdogan said on social media that he left Sochi after holding a “productive” meeting with his Russian counterpart.

Updated: September 29, 2021, 6:47 PM