Putin says Russia will support Syrian army in Idlib 

Russia will support the Syrian army in limited operations to reduce tensions and eliminate terrorist threats in the region, said Russian President Vladimir Putin in a briefing following the triple summit on Syria with Turkey and Iran in Ankara on Monday.

“The situation in Idlib is concerning. The area is almost completely under control of groups allied with Al Qaeda. Our accords don’t include terrorist organisations. We are prepared to take any steps to keep the civilian population from harm,” Putin said.

Putin said ISIS sleeper cells are becoming active again in northern Syria, and that ensuring stability in the area would only be possible if the Syrian government takes control in the region. The area is currently controlled by U.S.-allied majority-Kurdish groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in the fifth instalment of the summit in Turkish capital Ankara on Monday to discuss Syria.

Erdoğan has had great contributions to the Constitutional Committee, Putin said.

“We have agreed that ISIS and terrorist organisations won’t be supported, and posed our suggestions for establishing peace and an environment where refugees can return,” President Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said one of Turkey’s focuses was the tension in Idlib, and that Turkey cannot remain silent in the face of a new tragedy at the country’s border that will affect four million people, adding that such an eventuality would have an impact on Europe as well as Turkey.

Erdoğan had recently threatened to open the gates for refugees to enter Europe, and has been planning to settle one million Syrians in the safe zone currently underway along the border in north-eastern Syria.

President Rouhani said the presence of terrorist organisations have grown stronger in certain parts of Idlib. “For the last nine years, the Syrian people have suffered at the hands of terrorists,” he said, “We know who supports these terrorists. We must fight terrorists, and aid the Syrian state,” stressing that Iran is squarely aligned with Russia in the matter.

“We believe that approaches by some seeking to change the administration in Syria have lost all validity in light of the experience during the nine years of the Syrian crisis,” Rouhani said.

Russia expert Kerim Has said, “Here are my thoughts on the summit: Russia will continue in the same direction in Idlib; President Erdoğan will visit Moscow as the regime advances. Moscow and Tehran are not in favour of Turkey’s housing authority going into east of the Euphrates river, they point to Turkey’s Adana province. The Constitutional Commission has completed hard part of the job at hand, now starts the harder part. It seems like Putin is making Rouhani say first what he himself will be saying.”

President Putin said Turkey, Iran and Russia are three countries that support Syria’s territorial integrity, and that they wish to accelerate dialogue in Syria. Guaranteers, UN experts and countries related to the matter will be holding meetings, with a meeting scheduled for October in Kazakh capital Nursultan, he said.

Turkey, Iran and Russia have approved the list for the Constitutional Committee, which should start working in Geneva, said Putin.

The economic and social restoration of Syria has started, said Putin, and called for support from the international community to achieve peace.

Turkey’s cooperation with Russia has been growing and should grow further, said Putin. According to the Russian president, Iran and Russia have also reached an agreement on accelerating large-scale joint projects and using their national currencies in trade relations.

The three countries have agreed on ensuring security for military personnel on the ground, said Erdoğan. “We have worked to advance the political process, and with our joint efforts the bumps on the road to the forming of the committee have been removed,” he said. 

The leaders agreed that the Constitutional Committee will start working in coordination and finalise the rules of procedure together with the UN, said Erdoğan. 

The attack against a hospital in the Çobanbey town in Syria’s Aleppo province was the latest example of the treacherous events, Erdoğan said, as over a quarter of Syrian lands is controlled by a terrorist organisation.

“The threat of ISIS has been eliminated in Syria at this point,” said Erdoğan. The president said currently the greatest threat to Syria’s territorial integrity was the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Turkey considers to be an offshoot of the PKK.

Erdoğan mentioned Turkey’s plans to construct a refugee city in the Kurdish-controlled area to the east of the Euphrates, utilising the country’s public housing authority TOKİ.

According to Turkey’s plans, TOKİ will be building houses with gardens that can be used to grow food along the 450-km border.

Turkey will go on with its own plans in case of a failure to come to an agreement with the United States, Erdoğan said. 

Turkey has expressed plans to launch an operation against Kurdish forces in north-east Syria unless the agreement for the safe zone was to the country’s content.

“We believe that at least two million Syrians can settle in these regions,” said Erdoğan, referring to the east of the Euphrates.