President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
Today we held our third meeting this year. Our close personal contact allows us to promptly resolve various issues of bilateral cooperation and develop common approaches to settling key international problems.
Today we discussed the serious situation that has taken shape in Idlib Province in Syria. Since the beginning of the year, the criminal gangs operating there have sharply stepped up their activities. They have regularly shelled both Syrian government troop positions and civilian residential areas.
The radicals have continued to attack the Khmeimim Russian air base. Another attempt to hit it with a multiple launch rocket was made on March 1.
In all, the Khmeimim air base has been attacked 15 times since the beginning of the year. Each time, we informed our Turkish partners about it in real time.
The militants have actually managed to provoke the resumption of hostilities. Regrettably, there have been losses among the Turkish military as well.
In this respect, I again expressed my condolences to Mr President, knowing that he feels these losses very deeply, to the families of the dead and to all Turkish people.
We do not always agree with our Turkish partners when evaluating what is happening in Syria, but to this day, in each critical moment, we have managed to find points of contact on emerging disputed issues and reach mutually acceptable solutions by relying on the high level of bilateral relations.
It happened this time as well. Today, we reaffirmed the interest of our countries in continuing our cooperation in the Astana format as well. It was the Astana process that provided a serious impetus for a settlement in Syria at one point.
Our meeting today was preceded by a lot of work and several rounds of intensive consultations between inter-departmental delegations with an emphasis on the crisis situation in the Idlib zone. We proceed from the need to observe the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in Syria.
We are also convinced that the struggle against international terrorism must not be let up. Following our talks, we agreed on a common document, the provisions of which will be made public by our foreign ministers.
This document describes the solutions that the President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr Erdogan, and I elaborated during today’s consultations, which lasted over six hours.
I would like to express hope that these agreements will create a solid foundation for the cessation of hostilities in the Idlib de-escalation zone, stop the suffering of civilians, put an end to the expansion of the humanitarian crisis and create conditions for the continuation of the peace process in the Syrian Arab Republic between all conflicting parties.
I would also like to thank Mr President for coming to Moscow today, confirming the level of our relations.
I would like to thank all of our Turkish colleagues for their intensive and difficult but constructive work that, in my opinion, produced positive results.
Thank you for your attention.
President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (retranslated): I am also very grateful.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to greet you cordially and express my respect for you.
First, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Putin for his kind invitation.
At a time when tensions are still running high in our region, I am pleased to meet with Mr Putin again. During today’s meeting, we discussed issues related to Syria in detail, as well as the latest developments in Idlib.
We can say – Mr Putin also said this – that we have worked on these issues for about six hours. In this respect, I would like to note that we had a sincere dialogue, and we discussed these relevant issues with Mr President.
I can say, and you know this, that relations between Turkey and Russia are deeply rooted in history, spanning over five centuries. Of course, our countries and our people in both countries maintain very strong traditions and cooperation. Our strongest wish is that we continue to cooperate on the basis of mutual respect.
This year we are celebrating the centenary of our diplomatic relations. We have invited Mr Putin to our country on this occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, in September 2018 Mr Putin and I adopted the Sochi Memorandum of Understanding that made it possible to reach relative stability in Idlib.
It reads that tensions in Idlib will be reduced, any attacks in the region prevented, and existing status quo maintained. But starting in March attacks by the regime have become more frequent, which led to casualties among civilians and violated the Idlib agreement.
First, I would like to say that primary responsibility for this rests with the forces of the regime, which breached this agreement. This region is home to four million people. We believe it is unacceptable to call 4 million residents terrorists and subject them to bombings.
People, refugees leaving their homes because of the regime’s tough position – according to the UN there are about 1.5 million of them – are now near our borders.
The main goal of the regime in Idlib is to ravage this region and put Turkey into a difficult position, facing a new wave of refugees. No doubt, Turkey will not stand idle in the face of such a threat.
We have established observation posts in Idlib to reduce tensions in the region. They pledged to merely monitor the ceasefire but not control the territory.
Some time ago we reached an agreement with Russia to send reinforcement to stabilise the region – to curb certain groups from continuing their attacks and to deter attacks by the regime. We are taking an active part in this.
In this process, we tried to do all we could to coordinate our actions with Russian agencies and military. The regime’s attacks led to sad events and in this context it is necessary to establish a new status in Idlib.
Today, in Moscow, together with our Russian colleagues, we discussed cooperation between our countries in detail. This cooperation was a contributing factor in resolving this issue.
We have agreed to expand our relations to address political issues and the issues relating to the eastern bank of the Euphrates. We believe the regime’s forces will not be able to hurt our relations with Russia.
Today at the negotiating table we decided to discuss this issue and show that we have the will to resolve it. First of all, I would like to note that we will declare a ceasefire as soon as possible and then we will coordinate our next steps.
Today, at midnight March 5, a ceasefire will be put in place. All the necessary steps will be taken to ensure a sustainable ceasefire. Our objective is to avoid any further exacerbation of the humanitarian situation in this region.
We will spare no effort to provide the necessary assistance to everyone in Syria who needs it. We will also make it easier for the refugees who fled the area as a result of these attacks to return home.
In a little while, the foreign ministers of our two countries will make a statement that we have agreed on. In this process, Turkey reserves the right to use force to respond to any attack by the regime. Throughout this process, I will be in contact with my close friend; we will continue to maintain contact, as will the relevant bodies of our countries.
Regarding the Syrian crisis, we will continue to work based on the principle of Syria’s territorial integrity as well as political unity to resolve this issue, I mean the Sochi agreements.
I believe that the only key to resolving this issue is to ensure lasting peace and stability within the framework of the Geneva negotiating process.
I would like to greet everyone, and I believe that we will benefit from all of our meetings.