09/27/2021, 00.00
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Putin and Erdogan hold talks as winds of war blow in Syria

A summit between the two leaders is scheduled for September 29 in Sochi, on the Black Sea. They will seek a difficult understanding on northwest Syria where there is a new escalation of violence. Russian fighter jets have hit in different points of the province of Idlib: five militiamen dead and 12 wounded among civilians. Ankara strengthens its military presence on the ground. 



Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - On the eve of the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Moscow and Ankara fuel the winds of war in north-western Syria: the Turks have sent troops to reinforce the last stronghold in the hands of the rebels (Idlib province); the Russians have escalated the air raids. In the target military objectives of the militias fighting against the government of Damascus. 

Local  inhabitants  and military sources and the opposition confirm Russian air force fighters have attacked and hit yesterday the villages around the city of Afrin. The escalation began last week and in recent days has seen a further acceleration. 

Witnesses report the death of five fighters among the pro-Turkish militias, at least 12 civilians were injured in the Russian bombing. Moscow's military campaign has spread over a territory that goes from Jabal to al Zawya, in the province of Idlib, touching also the area of Afrin on the border with the sector controlled by Ankara. In this area there have also been skirmishes with the Syrian army and pro-Iranian militias. 

The military escalation comes two days before the summit of the leaders of the two countries, scheduled for September 29 in Sochi (Russian resort town on the Black Sea) to discuss the agreement reached last year and that put an end to the Russian offensive. A military operation with very serious humanitarian consequences, with about a million refugees in Idlib in what experts have called the most massive displacement campaign of the last decade. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that progress in implementing the agreement has been slow. He then added that Ankara's obligation to end the jihadist military presence, according to Moscow the real cause of the violence, will also be discussed. In the last two weeks, however, Turkey has reinforced dozens of bases where thousands of soldiers are stationed, fueling tension in a region already marked by conflict.

Turkey and Russia (along with Iran) are the regional powers that in the past have promoted and supported the Astana peace talks on Syria. The scheme made it possible to reach a hard won and fragile ceasefire. As part of the agreements, Ankara snatched a 120 km long strip of land between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, within which it intends to relocate up to two million Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey. In reality, behind the operation strongly desired by Erdogan there is also the objective of preventing the birth of an independent Kurdish state. 

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