Erdogan, Putin, Merkel and Macron to Meet March 5 on Idlib

Ugur Yilmaz and Dina Khrennikova

(Bloomberg) -- The Turkish, Russian, German and French leaders will meet on March 5 to try to find a solution to the crisis in the city of Idlib as Turkey and Russian-backed Syrian forces risk confrontation in the region.

Following phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that he will meet them all on March 5, without disclosing the location.

As Turkey slides toward war, Ankara has appealed to the U.S. and its European allies for support in a conflict that risks undermining the friendly ties he’s built with Moscow.

READ: Turkey and Russia Near Breaking Point in Syrian Standoff

Russia supports the idea of holding such a summit, according to Vesti.ru, the website of the nation’s state broadcasting company, which cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The meeting will be held whenever “the schedules of the four presidents are aligned,” according to Vesti.ru. Meanwhile, Turkey isn’t complying with last year’s de-escalation agreement between Putin and Erdogan, and Syrian rebels have been receiving “very dangerous” weaponry, Vesti.ru said, citing Peskov.

Turkey wants an end to intensifying attacks by Russian-backed Syrian forces in the country’s last rebel stronghold of Idlib, where one-time al-Qaeda militants as well as Turkey-backed rebels are holed up. Russia has in turn accused Turkey of failing to abide by agreements to ease hostilities, warning that the flow of Turkish troops was aggravating the situation.

Erdogan has threatened to use force before the end of February if Syrian fighters don’t pull back from areas surrounding Turkish military outposts in Idlib. While Turkey insists it will avoid any confrontation with Russian forces, the pressure on Erdogan to respond is rising as the toll of Turkish casualties mounts.

Another Turkish soldier died Saturday en route to the hospital after being wounded by Syrian tank fire in Idlib, taking the total toll of Turkish casualties to 17 in February alone.

(Updates with Kremlin statement in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ugur Yilmaz in Istanbul at uyilmaz@bloomberg.net;Dina Khrennikova in Moscow at dkhrennikova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Onur Ant at oant@bloomberg.net, James Amott, Helen Robertson

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