Turkey and Russia have called for a cease-fire as a first step to ending Syria’s five-year conflict. Both countries are united in understanding the need to provide humanitarian aid and fight terrorism there.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov — whose countries support opposing sides in the war — said they had agreed on the need to provide humanitarian aid.
“The recent situation in Syria is clear,” Cavusoglu said at a news conference in the southern Turkish resort district of Alanya on Thursday. “Unfortunately, civilians are dying… But there should be a cease-fire in Syria. Humanitarian aid should be provided… With regard to Syrian territorial integrity and unity, we are in agreement with Russia.”
Lavrov added that both Russia and Turkey “should make sure [the flow of] humanitarian aid keeps going on. We remain in cooperation on this issue.”
Previous cease-fires backed by Russia and the U.S. have failed to hold or provide the guarantees needed to allow aid to be delivered.
Supplies of humanitarian aid to civilians have been severely restricted due to the ongoing fighting, particularly in Aleppo, where Syrian regime forces backed by Russian air power have been bombarding opposition fighters in the city’s eastern districts.
Russia supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad while Turkey has backed opposition groups seeking to topple him. In August, Turkey launched an operation in northern Syria to rid the area of Daesh terrorists. However, earlier this week President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation was also aimed at deposing Assad.
Cavusoglu re-emphasized Turkey’s support for Syria’s unity in any post-conflict solution. “Unless a political solution as well as the national unity and territorial integrity of Syria are secured, you can clear Daesh but another terror group emerges after that,” he said.
Russia, Turkey and Syrian opposition
Russia and Turkey have been exchanging information on the sentiments among the Syrian armed opposition groups, Lavrov said.
“We have never avoided contacts with the Syrian opposition groups,” the Russian minister noted. “We supported the International Syria Support Group’s initiative that a provision on the importance of dialogue with all key opposition groups be included into the UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”
“We both (with Turkish foreign minister) attended the Lausanne meeting a month ago, the meeting’s participants pointed out that apart from political opposition consisting mostly of expats who actually never visit Syria, there is also armed patriotic opposition that cares for the country and has vast territories under its control,” Lavrov said. “At the Lausanne meeting we supported the idea of contacting these groups and field commanders.”
“We have never avoided contacts with the Syrian opposition groups and field commanders,” the Russian top diplomat stressed. “Since our Turkish counterparts have been in contacts with them, it is only natural that we have been exchanging information in order to find out the sentiments among the armed opposition members, we want them to take part in solving the crisis. For obvious reasons, we won’t make the details public but I assure you that this work is being done at a high professional level,” Sergey Lavrov concluded.
Russia and Turkey understand need to fight terrorism
Russia and Turkey are united in understanding that it is necessary to fight terrorism and settle the crisis in Turkey politically, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday after meeting with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“We had a very useful conversation on a very broad range of issues,” he said. “Special attention was paid to topical international problems, including the situation in Syria,” Lavrov said.
“We were united in understanding a need to as soon as possible curb terrorist threats in this country, stop bloodshed, put the settlement process on a political track and ensure the settlement of humanitarian problems, delivery of aid,” he said.
The diplomat said all this must be implemented in accordance with the agreements that were earlier reached within the framework of the International Syria Support Group and on the basis of resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council, which “formulated a comprehensive approach on all aspects of the Syrian crisis in the interests of its stable and safe settlement,” he added.
Restoration of bilateral relations between the two countries
Lavrov said Turkey and Russia — whose relations temporarily strained after Turkey downed a Russian warplane on the Syrian border a year ago — needed to speed up the “normalization process”. Cavusoglu said the process should be accelerated and all obstacles removed.
“We agreed on lifting sanctions,” he said. “Tourism, visa, security issues were discussed. We will do our best to speed up the process.”
Lavrov said Russia and Turkey are keen to continue restoring bilateral ties. “We have thoroughly discussed bilateral relations,” the minister noted. “We have reiterated both countries’ willingness to gradually normalize bilateral ties in accordance with the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia and Turkey.”
“We have also assessed the preparations for the next meeting of the high-level Cooperation Council that Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan will preside over,” Lavrov noted.
“We highlighted the importance of our continuing efforts to overcome the negative trends in bilateral trade as our trade turnover is still declining,” the minister went on to say. “According to the presidents’ decision, we will focus on the energy sector.” “We have also touched upon lifting economic restrictions… We has pointed to the progress made in the implementation of the Turkish Stream project which is in both Russia and Turkey’s interests as well as in the interest of the European countries,” the Russian top diplomat stressed.
Besides that, in Lavrov’s words, Turkey has confirmed that it will provide an official strategic investment status to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. “We commended the preparatory work at the Akkuyu construction site carried out by Russian specialists,” Lavrov said.
According to him, Russia and Turkey plan to make greater use of the potential of the military and technical sphere as well as of the defense industry.
When speaking about the tourism industry, the Russian foreign minister noted that Moscow had been placing great importance on the safety of the Russian citizens when assessing the possibility of expanding tourism ties with Turley and lifting visa restrictions.”
“We have pointed to the growing tourist inflow,” Lavrov said. “But Russia believes that the safety recommendations should be fulfilled before we start expanding ties in the tourism industry,” the Russian minister added.
Lavrov also said that Russia and Turkey will hold special consultations on security issues with a view to establishing more effective cooperation.
“Cooperation on specific security issues should be more effective,” he said. “We have agreed to hold special consultations with this end in view.”
For his part, Turkish FM Cavusoglu said “Our objective is to continue Turkey-Russia cooperation by gaining strength and to make sure this is not just in favor of both countries but the region as well.”
“We intend to take our relations further than before and to strengthen our bilateral relations in all areas.”
He added that the two nations had set a goal to increase trading volume to $100 billion by 2023.