Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have arrived in Tehran for a key summit to discuss key issues of interest, mainly a planned Syrian operation to retake Idlib.
The three presidents were due to meet Friday as part of their efforts to return peace and stability to Syria which is gearing up for a decisive battle to expel terrorists from their last major urban stronghold.
Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are guarantors of the Astana process, a track of negotiations which have resulted in the return of a succession of militant bastions to the government fold and movement of civilians to safe zones.
Ahead of his visit to Tehran, Erdogan said Turkey aims to find a “permanent solution” to the conflict in its southern neighbor through the discussions.
Ankara is worried that an operation in Idlib could lead to a wave of refugees pouring across the border into Turkey. The Friday meeting aims to find a mutually acceptable formula to avoid such consequences.
Turkey agreed with Russia and Iran last year to make Idlib a “de-escalation zone” of reduced conflict. Syria and Russia say the province has now become a “nest of terrorists” which has to be dismantled by force.
Idlib’s dominant rebel faction is Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance spearheaded by al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, though other groups are also present.
The Syrian government has offered “reconciliation” for the negotiated militant surrenders that have taken place in some areas.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia is looking to the Tehran summit as a means of clarifying the military situation in Idlib. The fate of the Nusra Front and other foreign Takfiri terrorists will be one of the top issues at the summit.
Russian officials have also stated clearly that militants must be pushed out of Idlib. They are using civilians as human shields and planning a possible false flag chemical attack, Syrian and Russian officials say.