SOCHI, RUSSIA — On Wednesday, the leaders of Russia and Turkey publicly re-affirmed their commitment to working together to end the conflict in Syria, despite a gas attack on a Syrian city that tested their fragile alliance
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, have formed a pact on Syria despite backing rival sides in the civil conflict there.
They met on Wednesday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, their first meeting since a deadly April 4 chemical attack on the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun.
Erdogan at the time blamed the attack on Russia’s ally, the Syrian government, while Putin suggested the attack had been faked to discredit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking to reporters after their talks, Putin and Erdogan said they were still focused on working together to end the conflict in Syria, which has turned the country into a breeding ground for violent Islamist militant groups
“We stand by our Russian friends in the fight against terror,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference, standing alongside Putin.
Both leaders said they would maintain their support for a stop-start peace process, based in the Kazakh city of Astana, in which Moscow, Ankara and Tehran are co-sponsors
Erdogan and Putin also voiced support for a proposal, backed by President Trump, to create so-called safe zones in Syria to protect civilians from the fighting.
“We all take the view that we need to… create mechanisms that would guarantee a cessation of bloodshed and create the conditions for the start of a political dialogue. In this respect our position and that of the Turkish president totally coincide,” Putin said.
On the gas attack, Putin and Erdogan did not mention previous differences over who was to blame. Instead, Erdogan said that he had reached agreement with Putin that whoever was responsible should be punished.
Russia’s military intervention in support of the Syrian government has kept the Syrian president in power, while Turkey backs the armed opposition groups who are trying to oust him.
On Wednesday, May 3, representatives of Syria’s armed opposition said they were suspending their participation.However,the Syrian opposition delegation returned to peace talks on Thursday, a day after it said it had suspended its participation, the RIA news agency reported.