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Vladmir Putin meets Erdogan to secure Syria de-escalation zone

The two leaders may back rival factions but they were showering each other with praise in Ankara. They agreed to work closely to implement the Idlib de-escalation zone, after the region was heavily bombed.

Russia and Turkey on Thursday pledged to work more closely to end the Syrian civil war.

Russian President Vladmir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to "more intensely" pursue the implementation of a so-called "de-escalation" zone in the key northern province of Idlib.

Read more: Russia, Iran and Turkey agree to new safe zone in war-torn Syria

The province borders Turkey and is largely under the control of Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham and associated rebel groups, with portions under the control of rival salafist group Tahrir al-Sham.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces almost surround the region. The area has been struck with an intense round of bombings in recent weeks by Syrian and Russian jets, shattering six months of relative calm.

Putin was in Ankara on Thursday to meet with Erdogan, with the two leaders showering one another with praise.

Conditions exist for peace

Watch video 02:20

How safe are Syrian safe zones?

Read more: Syria civil war timeline: A summary of critical events

Putin said afterwards that their two countries would work to "deepen coordination" on ending six-year conflict, saying the right conditions now existed for the conflict to end.

"De-facto, the necessary conditions have been created for the end of the fratricidal war in Syria, the final defeat of terrorists and the return of Syrians to a peaceful life and their homes," Putin said.

Russia and Turkey would work "with the aim of deepening the coordination of our joint activity to solve the Syria crisis," Putin added.

He said the work to implement the agreements made at the Astana peace talks, including the creation of the Idlib de-escalation zone, had "not been easy" but the sides had already "succeeded in having a positive result."

Erdogan said that the two sides had reaffirmed their determination to work closely and show a "joint will" to end the conflict.

Last week Erdogan said Turkish troops would deploy inside Idlib, while Russia would maintain security outside the province.

The warm tones between Putin and Erdogan demonstrate the significant warming of ties after the 2015 downing of a Russian war plane in 2015. Earlier this month, Turkey announced it had signed a contract to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, raising concerns among Ankara's NATO allies. The two leaders did not mention the sale on Thursday.

Read more: Turkey needles NATO by buying Russian weapons

The two leaders said they wanted to see progress in two major projects — the TurkStream gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant being built in Turkey with Russian collaboration.

Al Baghdadi resurfaces

Elsewhere in Syria, their mutual enemy "Islamic State" released a purported recording of its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, calling on followers worldwide to wage attacks against the West and to keep fighting in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. If true, it would disprove Russia's claims in June they had killed him in an airstrike, one of many claims of the jihadist's demise.

Kurdish referendum

Read more: Iraq’s Kurds vote 'yes' to independent state in referendum – official results

Speaking on the Kurdish independence referendum, Erdogan denounced it as a "big mistake" that eroded stability in the region. He emphasized the need to prevent "even more serious mistakes," adding that "it's important that the international community sides with Iraq's territorial integrity and political unity."

Putin referred to a statement from the Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday that expressed Moscow's respect for Kurdish interests and called for a dialogue between the Iraqi government and the Kurds to decide on a "mutually acceptable formula of co-existence within the integral state of Iraq."

Turkey and Russia share strong commercial ties with the semi-autonomous region.

aw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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