Turkey may refrain from ground offensive in Syria: Russian diplomat
Russia's special presidential envoy for Syria says Moscow is ready to provide a venue for a meeting between the Turkish and Syrian presidents.
Russia's special presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said in an interview for Sputnik that Turkey may still refrain from conducting a ground offensive in Syria.
Lavrentyev indicated that Ankara's decision will depend on the actions of militants in the country's northeast and the absence of provocations.
However, Lavrentyev said the Russian delegation did not receive any assurances that the offensive would not be carried out.
Moscow ready to provide platform for Erdogan-Assad meeting
In a related context, the Russian envoy affirmed that Moscow is ready to provide a venue for a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"I think Moscow will be ready to provide [a platform for the meeting] if there is a mutual desire of the two sides. I do not even doubt it," Lavrentyev told Sputnik.
According to the Russian diplomat, such a meeting is extremely important, but it must be properly prepared.
Lavrentyev also indicated that Russia is ready to mediate negotiations between Syria and Turkey at different levels.
"The issue of Turkish-Syrian rapprochement and normalization of relations has been singled out by our President Vladimir Putin as a priority — the settlement of the Syrian conflict itself largely depends on this. The issue is very important, and, of course, we are ready to provide all possible support, mediation assistance for the organization of such negotiations at various levels," he explained.
Lavrentyev stressed that contact between the two sides at different levels must be continued, as there are a lot of issues that Turkey and Syria can resolve through direct communication with each other, including talks at the level of foreign ministers.
On Wednesday, Lavrentyev said Russia is receiving indications from Ankara and Damascus about being open to making steps toward one another and about hopes for a Syrian-Turkish rapprochement,
Ukraine war not to affect Russian military presence in Syria
The war in Ukraine will not have an impact on the fight against terrorism and Moscow's presence in Syria, Lavrentyev told Sputnik.
He said despite the war, Russia will continue to support the Syrian government.
"We have a limited military contingent operating there, of course, I can't tell you the exact number, but the Hmeimim base is also functioning, the central Russian command in Damascus is functioning, which is fulfilling the tasks assigned to it, primarily to assist the Syrian government in overcoming these consequences of terrorist activities in Syria," Lavrentyev explained.
The diplomat added that there was no necessity to relocate Russian forces deployed in Syria to the combat zone in Ukraine.
No need to revise memorandum on Syria with Turkey
According to Lavrentyev, there is no need to revise the memorandum of understanding on Syria between Russia and Turkey, as the agreements are still in force.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that Moscow had not been fulfilling its obligation to fight Kurdish militants under a 2019 agreement with Ankara, thus forcing Ankara's unilateral actions against these groups in the region.
Turkey announced earlier this month the launch of the "Operation Claw-Sword" offensive with airstrikes targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in both Iraq and Syria.
The offensive comes days after Ankara accused the PKK of being behind the Istanbul attack, which resulted in the death of six people, which the movement categorically denied.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday that the airstrikes against Kurdish militants were only the beginning.