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Erdoğan to Putin: Syrian government forces targeting İdlib could destroy accord

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Saturday that an accord aimed at containing the Syrian conflict could be destroyed if Syrian government forces target the Idlib region, according to a Turkish presidential source, Reuters reported.

The two presidents spoke by telephone after the Syrian government raised the national flag on Thursday over areas of Deraa in the southwest that was in rebel hands for years. The source said Erdoğan voiced concern about the treatment of civilians there.

“President Erdoğan stressed that the targeting of civilians in Deraa was worrying and said that if the Damascus regime targeted İdlib in the same way, the essence of the Astana accord could be completely destroyed,” the source said.

With help from Russia and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad has now recovered most of Syria, but anti-Assad rebels still control İdlib in the northwest, while a Kurdish-led militia controls the northeast and a large chunk of the east.

Turkey has set up a series of observation posts in İdlib as part of a deal it reached last year with Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana to reduce fighting between insurgents and the Syrian government in de-escalation zones.

Erdoğan said the avoidance of “negative developments” in İdlib was important in terms of encouraging rebel groups to attend a meeting in Astana planned for July 30-31, according to the source.

Separately, the Kremlin confirmed in a statement Putin’s phone conversation with Erdoğan on Saturday and said they had discussed joint efforts to solve the Syrian crisis.

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