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Source: AFP via Getty Images

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Russia, Turkey Call for ‘Decisive’ Action in Syria as U.S. Exits

Russia, Turkey Call for ‘Decisive’ Action in Syria as U.S. Exits

  • Defense ministers meet ahead of summit of presidents in Russia
  • Talks focus on Idlib, Kurdish-held zone that U.S. is leaving
A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces looks out from a building at the frontline in Raqa on Oct. 16, 2017.

Source: AFP via Getty Images

Russia and Turkey said “decisive measures are needed to ensure security” in Syria’s Idlib, where militants linked to al-Qaeda have seized control.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar agreed at talks in Ankara on Monday to continue coordination by their militaries and intelligence services “to establish peace and maintain stability” in the city and province of Idlib. They also discussed a Kurdish-controlled area of Syria that U.S. forces are leaving, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement.

The talks took place as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to host talks on Syria with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday. Russia and Turkey struck an agreement to avert a Syrian government offensive against Idlib in September, but that’s in tatters after the militants took control there last month from Turkish-backed rebels.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has signaled that Ankara might agree to a limited Russian-backed Syrian offensive to retake Idlib. That would be a setback for Turkey as it would strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s seeking to exploit the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops to take back oil-rich northeastern provinces held by the Kurds.

Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists and has been pushing to establish a buffer zone on the Syria-Turkey border, a plan the U.S. supports but which will likely also require Russian support to enforce.