A Syrian government statement demanding Turkish troops' withdrawal from the northwest city of Idlib is made to feed the domestic public opinion and should not be taken seriously, a senior MP with Turkey's ruling party has told Al Jazeera. Damascus on Saturday urged "immediate and unconditional withdrawal" of Turkish troops that have been deployed to Idlib to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, who are implementing a "de-escalation zone" deal agreed by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran in September. A Foreign Ministry statement carried on state media said the entry of Turkish forces in Idlib "was a violation of international law and was not tied with the understandings that were reached between the guarantor states in the Astana process," referring to Russia, Turkey and Iran. The Syrian statement was made "to save the government's face" in the eyes of the public there, Kani Torun, a senior MP and the deputy chair of the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee, said. "At the end of the day, foreign troops have entered the Syrian land and this has to be explained to the Syrian public in one way or another."
Russia and Turkey agreed to stabilise Syria's Idlib using "decisive measures" as hardcore fighters continue to seize control of the northwestern province along Turkey's border. A joint statement on Monday didn't specify what military moves would be taken or when, however, after talks between Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar in Ankara. Turkey, which backs moderate Syrian rebels, and Russia - the Syrian government's principal foreign ally - agreed in September to create a demilitarised zone in Idlib, which would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and hard-line combatants. Ankara pledged to disarm and remove the Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham armed group that dominates and continues to expand its reach in the region. In return, the Russian-backed Syrian government said it would hold off launching a major military operation to wipe out the group once affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the international community to prevent a Syrian government offensive in Syria's Idlib, as the United Nations says it fears the century's "worst humanitarian catastrophe" there. In an article in the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, Erdogan echoed the UN's concerns about a potential humanitarian crisis, adding that an attack on the last rebel-held province would affect Turkey, Europe and beyond. "Not only innocent Syrians, but the entire world stands to pay the price [otherwise]," he said. Erdogan, who met with his Russian and Iranian counterparts at a summit in Tehran last week, also said Russia and Iran had a responsibility to stop a potential humanitarian disaster in Idlib. President Bashar al-Assad has now set his sights on Idlib, and his forces have stepped up bombardment of the densely populated province since the beginning of the month.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin will host a trilateral summit with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi. Thursday's meeting between Putin, Iran's Hassan Rouhani and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan will focus on the long-term settlement of the Syrian crisis, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday. But the three leaders will also discuss projects and coordination on the international arena. On the sidelines of the summit, the trio will hold individual meetings, according to the Kremlin. The summit is the fourth of its kind since Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan first met in Sochi in 2017.