By Elena Teslova
MOSCOW (AA) – The Russian and Turkish leaders on Thursday met in Moscow in the aftermath of an attack in Syria's Idlib which led to the martyrdom of at least 34 Turkish soldiers.
In his opening remarks in Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin thanked his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for accepting his invitation for talks on the recent escalation.
"Thank you for coming. There is always something to talk about, but now the situation in a well-known area — Idlib, has escalated so much that it requires our direct, personal conversation," he said, offering his condolences over the fallen soldiers.
"The loss of life is always a great tragedy. Unfortunately, as I told you on the phone, no one, including the Syrian military, knew about their [Turkish soldiers] whereabouts," he added.
Putin went on to say that the Syrian regime forces have suffered great losses in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria.
"We need to talk about the situation that has developed to date, so that nothing like this happens again, and so that it does not destroy the Russian-Turkish relations, which I, and as I know, you too, treat very carefully," he said.
The Russian leader said the meeting will start with one-on-one talks and then continue in an expanded format.
Erdogan said the decisions taken at the meeting will ease tensions in the region and in Turkey.
The two leaders are set to discuss the recent developments in Syria, including cease-fire violations in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
The regime and its allies have consistently broken the terms of the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12, launching frequent attacks inside the territory.
Besides civilian casualties, this has led to an influx of asylum seekers along the Turkey borders.
In response, Ankara launched Operation Spring Shield against regime targets.
Turkey's soldiers are stationed in northwestern Syria to protect the local population. Ankara has urged Russia to live up to the peace agreements and ensure an immediate cease-fire in the region.