06:26 GMT06 April 2020
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    Russia and Turkey are currently holding a series of talks on Syria's Idlib, an area that saw an increase in violence in early February as militants intensified attacks against Syrian government positions in the province.

    The Russian military announced on Thursday evening that Syrian air defences downed a Turkish attack drone that had violated Syrian airspace to carry out strikes against government positions in Idlib's Maarzaf area.

    Speaking in a daily briefing, the head of the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation, Rear Admiral Oleg Zhuravlev, noted that Ankara continues to violate the agreements reached with Moscow on the Idlib de-escalation zone.

    "In violation of the Sochi accords, the Turkish side continues to support the actions of illegal armed groups in the Idlib de-escalation zone by artillery fire and the use of reconnaissance and strike drones in attacks on the units of the Syrian armed forces," Zhuravlev highlighted.

    Talks on Idlib

    Russia and Turkey on Thursday continued negotiations on the situation in Idlib. The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that Ankara is directly responsible for the rapid deterioration of the situation in Idlib due to the Middle Eastern nation's failure to live up to agreements on Syria reached between the countries during the 2018 talks in Russia's Sochi.

    The 18 September 2018 Russian-Turkish memorandum guaranteed, among other things, that the Turkish military could remain in Idlib on the condition that terrorist groups be expelled from the so-called de-escalation zone. The document also stipulated the cessation of all hostilities within the area.

    Turkish troops on the border with Syria
    © Sputnik / Hikmet Durgun
    Turkish troops on the border with Syria

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Ankara has failed to distinguish the armed opposition operating in Idlib, that is ready for talks with the legitimate Syrian leadership on a resolution to the crisis, from terrorists.

    Turkish President Reccip Erdogan insisted that talks with Russia have not been satisfactory, adding that he had urged his Russian counterpart to exert pressure on Syrian President Assad to stop the operations in Idlib and stay clear of Turkish observation posts in the region.

    The situation in Syria's Idlib became sharply worse in early February as the Syrian army pushed out Idlib militants violating the ceasefire regime and attacked government positions. The Russian military revealed that Turkish forces had backed militants with artillery fire in an assault against Syrian forces.

    Turkey has claimed that Russia and Syria were violating demilitarisation lines established under the Sochi agreements, and Erdogan has threatened to start a full-fledged military operation in Idlib if Damascus forces attack Turkish observation posts.

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