Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 23, 2019. Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Moscow for talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin as tensions mount over the future of Syria – the Kurdish-held north and Idlib in particular.
Erdogan’s office described it as a “working visit.”
Turkey is trying to expand its control in northern Syria, hoping to benefit as the United States pulls its forces out of Kurdish-held territory. Moscow, however, wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government return to the roughly a third of the country that is being secured and administered by a Kurdish-Arabic alliance.
In Idlib province, one of the last areas held by Syrian opposition groups, Russia and Turkey are the guarantors of a ceasefire. Russia is a backer of the regime and Turkey is supporting rebel groups.
The al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), however, has recently taken control of Idlib, after the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) backed off. It is unclear if the ceasefire will hold with this new development.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu are also attending the talks.
Turkey and Russia are also growing their economic and defence ties.