The foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran will hold a video conference on April 22 to discuss Syria and a de-escalation deal in the last rebel-held enclave in Idlib.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides of the conflict, brokered a March 5 cease-fire in rebel-controlled Idlib province following a monthslong Russia-backed offensive by Syrian forces that displaced nearly one million people and threatened to send a flood of refugees into Turkey.
The escalation earlier this year brought the Turkish military and Syrian government into direct blows. Ankara retaliated for the death of some 60 Turkish troops by increasing support for opposition groups and unleashing a devastating drone campaign on Syrian government forces.
As part of the cease-fire deal, Turkish and Russian troops conduct joint patrols in a buffer zone between rebel fighters and Syrian government forces along a section of the strategic M4 highway, which connects Aleppo to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.
On April 20, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Syrian government of taking advantage of the world’s distraction with the coronavirus pandemic to increase attacks in Idlib.
“Should the regime, which has violated the cease-fire and other conditions of the agreement, continue in this way, it will pay a price with heavy losses,” he added.
The threat comes amid reports of minor clashes between Syrian forces and Turkey-backed opposition forces and extremist rebel factions, although the buffer zone appears to be limiting fighting.
Ahead of the foreign ministers video conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rohani on April 21.
The three countries are part of the so-called Astana process designed to support a diplomatic solution to Syria’s 10-year civil war.
On April 20, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Along with Russia, Tehran has provided crucial military support to Assad during the country’s civil war.