Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for talks in Moscow as they seek common ground on the deadly fighting in northwestern Syria. They also discussed defence cooperation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint news conference following their talks on the sidelines of the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia, August 27, 2019.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint news conference following their talks on the sidelines of the MAKS-2019 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia, August 27, 2019. (Maxim Shipenkov / Reuters)

The leaders of Russia and Turkey said on Tuesday they shared deep concerns over the fighting in northwestern Syria, as Ankara warns it will take the steps necessary to protect its troops there.

After holding talks near Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they hoped to work together to ease tensions in Syria's Idlib province.

Earlier this month, Russian-backed regime forces intensified their offensive against Idlib, one of the last major opposition-held areas of Syria.

"The provocations of the [Syrian] regime in the region have reached a level that risks the lives of our soldiers. I would like to say here that our right of self-defence, especially along our borders, leads us to defend [ourselves]. Of course, we have to take the necessary steps when it is necessary.

I personally expressed our country's determination on this issue to my dear friend Putin," Erdogan said.

"It is unacceptable that the regime spreads death both from land and air under the pretext of fighting terrorism," the Turkish president added.

He said Turkey can fulfil its responsibility within Sochi deal "if the regime ends attacks" there.

Erdogan said Turkey is ready to cooperate within the Astana peace talks format to ensure "tranquillity" in Idlib.

"Our aim is to stop the bloodshed and to get our neighbour Syria a peaceful environment that it has been longing for eight years," he added.

About the recent attacks in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, Erdogan said the region faces a "humanitarian crisis" as more than 500 civilians were killed and more than 1,200 others injured since May in the regime attacks.

Putin also shared Turkey's concerns.

"The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is of serious concern to us and our Turkish partners," Putin said.

He said Turkey had "legitimate interests" to protect on its southern borders and supported the creation of a safe-zone in the area.

Putin said he and Erdogan had agreed "additional joint steps" to "normalise" the situation in Idlib, but did not provide details.

Turkey and Russia agreed last September to turn Idlib's southern border into a de-militarised zone where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the zone.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to some four million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces from throughout the war-weary country.

Erdogan and Putin agreed to hold a summit on Syria that will see the two leaders joined by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Ankara on September 16.

The Turkish leader said that with the efforts carried out by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the UN, they are on the final stage of establishing the constitutional committee regarding Syria.

“We want to announce the committee as soon as some small remaining issues are resolved,” Erdogan said.

Defence cooperation with Russia

Erdogan said that Turkey wants to continue defence industry cooperation with Russia, including on warplanes.

Erdogan spoke after the leaders visited an air show outside the Russian capital where Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jets performed demonstration flights and the Turkish leader inspected aircraft.

Meanwhile, Turkey took delivery on Tuesday of a second batch of Russian S-400 air defence equipment.

"We are taking positive steps in the defence industry sector with the delivery of the S-400 systems starting," Erdogan said at a news conference alongside Putin.

"With that, in our meetings today we had the opportunity to discuss what steps we could take in various fields within the defence industry and what we could do," he added.

The initial delivery of parts of the S-400s, which Washington says is not compatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defence equipment, arrived in Ankara in July despite warnings about possible US sanctions over the purchase.

Washington has not yet acted on the threat, but it did begin last month to remove Turkey from its programme of manufacturing F-35 jets, which Turkey also planned to buy.

In response, Erdogan said Turkey would turn elsewhere for jets to meet its needs.

Putin said he and Erdogan discussed cooperation on Russia's Su-35 jet and possible joint work on its new Su-57.

"In my opinion, a lot has drawn interest from our Turkish partners, not only from a purchase point of view but also from joint production," Putin said at the joint briefing.

Erdogan opens air show in Russia

Erdogan and Putin attended the inauguration ceremony of the MAKS-2019, one of the world’s leading events in its field.

Erdogan was Putin's guest of honour at the opening of the International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS) aviation show outside Moscow and even got to peek inside the cockpit of Russia's newest fighter jet, the Su-57, which was unveiled at the show.

During the tour, the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) offered Erdogan to send a Turkish astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).

On December 2018, Turkey’s official gazette published a presidential decree announcing the establishment of the country’s space agency aiming to prepare and carry out the National Space Program in line with the policies determined by the president of Turkey.

The Turkish president welcomed the offer by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos.

"We will participate in your esteemed work. I thank you on behalf of our country, thank you for the work you have done," Erdogan said.

The ISS stationed in low Earth orbit, serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory for scientists to conduct experiments in various fields.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies