On February 20th, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The talks were focused on the situation in Idlib, Syria.
The leaders particularly focused on resolving the Syrian crisis in the context of a drastic escalation in Idlib as a result of extremist groups’ aggression against the Syrian government troops and civilians.
They also spoke of how important it was to avoid any humanitarian consequences for the civilian population.
The Russian president emphasized how important it was to undertake adequate measures to fight the terrorist threat, while observing the Syrian territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Merkel and Macron expressed readiness to contribute to reducing the tensions in northwestern Syria.
Turkish media immediately reported that both Merkel and Macron have urged Putin to stop attacks on Idlib.
Seibert, according to DW, said that Merkel and Macron agreed to meet with Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discuss the situation in Idlib.
Merkel and Macron were said to have called for an immediate end to hostilities and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need. There is no direct citation, but Turkish media did provide one from the German government spokesperson.
“They called for an immediate end to combat operations and an unhindered humanitarian access,” he said, adding that the civilians in Idlib were facing a catastrophic humanitarian situation.
“They also expressed their readiness to meet with President Putin and Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to find a political situation to the crisis,” Seibert said.
Even before the call, French President Emmanuel Macron had strongly condemned the attacks by Syrian government forces on Idlib and called on the UN Security Council to act. In Brussels he complained that the humanitarian drama had been going on for weeks.
The EU, as a whole, issued a statement, condemning the attacks by the “Syrian regime and its backers” saying that the offensive on the militants in Idlib and liberation of the cities must stop.
The bloc reiterated “its calls on all parties to put in place a sustainable ceasefire, guarantee the protection of civilians and fully implement their commitments under the Sochi Memorandum of 17 September 2018.”
“The EU supports a credible political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique,” it said in the statement.
Accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law is of utmost importance. For this reason, the EU reiterated its call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
On February 20th, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, in her briefing, provided some insight into Turkish-Russian talks on Idlib.
“We are in daily contact with our Turkish partners in a number of areas, both in the field of foreign policy and defense departments. There are no breaks in these contacts. You know that there is an Embassy of Russia in Turkey and Turkey in Russia, there are contacts directly “on the ground” in the form of communication between military experts, telephone conversations of the foreign ministers of the two countries.”
Furthermore, each side analyzes the public statements by the other.
Zakharova said that instead of making public statements regarding aggression on the ground in Idlib, it would be better to use diplomatic channels and discuss the situation.
Furthermore, she said that the Syrian government and army were in their right to fight for their land, since Syria is a sovereign state.
“Regarding statements that the Syrian authorities or Syrian forces must do something on their land, first of all, we must not forget that we are talking about a sovereign state. The Syrian armed forces are on their territory – this should be a basic principle. Of course, there is interaction between the Syrian army and military personnel from Russia and other countries, but the world community should not forget the basic principle that I mentioned.”
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