Russia and Turkey have reached an understanding over the next steps in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday.
The meeting comes as Ankara says it will launch a military operation against the main US-backed YPG after the US announced its withdrawal from Syria.
Turkey and Russia have a joint will to clear all terrorist groups from Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Moscow on Saturday.
"We will continue close cooperation with Russia and Iran on Syria and regional issues," Cavusoglu stated, adding that Turkey and Russia – as guarantors of the Astana peace process – are defending Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity from all efforts to harm them.
Cavusoglu, Turkey's National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, and presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin attended the meeting in Moscow 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 hold talks about the latest developments in Syria and that Turkey, Russia, and Iran have close cooperation about Syria in the Astana format.
"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.
Topping the agenda
Three major issues around the Syrian peace process were discussed at the meeting in Moscow between high-powered Turkish and Russian officials, including the foreign and defence ministers, and presidential aides, Lavrov said.
“First, we discussed solutions to humanitarian issues, the creation of conditions for the return of refugees,” Lavrov said after the meeting. “Special attention was paid to the new situation developing in connection with the US military withdrawal from Syria," he said.
“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,” Lavrov 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.
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.
"We will have the opportunity to discuss once again the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone and in the demilitarisation zone,” Shoygu said earlier.
“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 expected Turkish counter-terrorism moves in Syria targeting the YPG/PKK.
In its more than 30- year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU – has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch.