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Erdogan to meet Merkel, Putin and Macron for Idlib summit

February 22, 2020

The leaders of Turkey, Germany, France and Russia will meet in March to discuss escalating violence in Syria's last rebel enclave. Merkel and Macron had called on Erdogan and Putin to find a "political solution."

President of Turkey and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Altan

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he would hold a summit with leaders from Germany, France and Russia to discuss the conflict in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib . 

The announcement came the same day a Turkish soldier was killed in Idlib during shelling by government forces, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron urged the Turkish leader to join a four-party Syria summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a teleconference.

"We will come together on March 5 and discuss these issues," Erdogan said in a televised speech, after his phone call with Putin on Friday.

Erdogan did not specify where the meeting would be held on March 5, but confirmed Merkel, Putin and Macron would be present.

"I stated our determination on Idlib clearly to Putin yesterday. I also mentioned it to Merkel and Macron too," Erdogan told supporters in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, referring to his calls with the three leaders.

Read more: Opinion: Declaration of moral bankruptcy in Idlib

EU leaders urge "political solution"

Merkel and Macron on Friday called on Erdogan to find a "political solution" to the crisis in Idlib. According to the chancellor's office, the two European leaders "expressed their willingness to meet President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan" to discuss possible solutions.

Months-long conflict in Idlib has seen almost one million civilians flee the violence after Russia-backed Syrian troops carried out an offensive against rebels supported by Ankara.

Turkey has threatened the Damascus government of an "imminent" attack on Idlib  after regime forces fired at Turkish troops.

Turkish-backed militants attacked Syrian government forces in Idlib province on Thursday, resulting in a clash between the two sides. According to Turkey's Defense Ministry, some 50 Syrian government soldiers were killed.

Saturday's killing of a soldier brings the number of Turkish personnel killed in clashes in this month alone to 17, triggering tensions between Turkey and Russia, an important ally of Damascus.

Moscow on Wednesday objected to the UN Security Council adopting a statement that would have called for a ceasefire in Idlib, diplomats said following a closed-door meeting.

Turkey has given the Damascus government until the end of February to pull back its military positions.

Civilians paying the price in the battle for Idlib

mvb/aw (dpa, AFP)

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