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Erdogan warns Putin over Syrian military Idlib operations

The combo shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned his Russian counterpart that Syrian military action in the Idlib region may endanger the Astana peace accords.

Erdogan made the remarks during a phone conversation with Putin held on Saturday in which joint efforts aimed at solving the Syrian crisis were mainly discussed.

"President Erdogan stressed that the targeting of civilians in  Dara'a was worrying and said that if the Damascus regime targeted Idlib in the same way the essence of the Astana accord could be completely destroyed," said a Turkish source.

Erdogan also noted that the avoidance of "negative developments" in Idlib was key to encouraging militant groups to take part in a meeting in Astana set for July 30-31.

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The development comes just after the Syrian army raised the national flag over the southern city of Dara'a as a major counter-terrorism operation nears an end, with foreign-backed militants leaving the region in negotiated surrender deals.

Since June 19, the Syrian army has been conducting the operation in Dara'a, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied side of Syria’s Golan Heights.

Dara’a’s return to the Syrian government control would cut the much-reported collaboration between anti-Damascus militants and Israel which has beefed up its military presence in the Golan Heights in recent days.

Internally displaced children from Dara'a province play together near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in Quneitra, Syria July 11, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

In a bid to minimize civilian casualties, both Damascus and Moscow have been initiating talks with militants to make them hand back the areas they control to the Damascus government without fighting.

Latest estimates say some 2,000 militants are still holed up in Dara'a city, along with their families.

The Kremlin also released a statement confirming Putin and Erdogan's conversation in which the talk about joint actions amid at ending the crisis in Syria.

Turkey has several of observation posts in Idlib in accordance to a deal reached last year with Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital Astana aimed at reducing clashes in de-escalation zones.

The Astana peace process has helped significantly reduce the violence in Syria through the formation of four de-escalation zones in the country, setting the stage for Syria’s warring sides to focus on negotiations on the political future of their homeland.


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