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Erdogan, Putin agree to meet face to face: Turkish official

ANKARA (AA): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in their phone conversation agreed to meet face to face soon, Turkey’s communications director said on Friday.

Fahrettin Altun had a meeting with media representatives in Ankara on latest developments after Thursday night’s attacks on Turkish soldiers by Assad regime forces in Idlib, northwestern Syria.

Erdogan told Putin that the current refugee situation along the Turkish borders was due to Syrian regime’s negligence and deliberate acts, Altun said.

He said that Erdogan, during his talk with Putin, clearly emphasized that the blood of Turkey’s martyrs will never be left on the ground.

Altun added that in an environment where our country is under direct attack, he [Erdogan] said Turkey considers all elements of the regime “legitimate target”, and that those targets will be under fire.

According to Altun, Erdogan also said Turkey expects that the regime will be obliged to comply with the Sochi agreement.

Erdogan added that these attacks cannot change Turkey’s stance on Idlib, and reminded Russia to fulfill its responsibility by stopping the Assad regime based on Article 3 of the Sochi agreement, Altun said.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in the Idlib, Syria de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.

The Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.

But more than 1,300 civilians have been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone since then, as the cease-fire continues to be violated.

Thursday’s attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping their pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.

Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world’s top refugee hosting country.

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