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Kremlin Says Putin-Erdogan Talks Can Be Arranged After Turkish Strikes In Syria

A Turkish military convoy of tanks and armored vehicles passes through the Syrian town of Dana, east of the Turkish-Syrian border in the northwestern Idlib Province, on February 2.

The Kremlin says talks between President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be arranged if "necessary" after Turkish forces killed dozens of Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made his comments on February 3, hours after Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul that Moscow shouldn't get involved in the situation, which saw Turkish forces shell Syrian troops as they in turn were firing on rebel forces in their last stronghold near Idlib.

The Turkish president said initial reports showed 30-35 Syrians were "neutralized," while Turkish authorities said six soldiers from Turkey died in the "intensive shelling" by Syrian rebels that ignited the response.

"There haven't been any high-level talks yet, but there should be no doubt at all that if the presidents consider it necessary, such talks can be coordinated very quickly," Peskov said, adding that Russia was concerned over "the ongoing activities of terrorist groups in Idlib."

Turkey and Russia, which support opposing sides in Syria's conflict, have agreed to work toward de-escalating the fighting in Idlib and creating a demilitarized zone.

Earlier, in January, Erdogan said Turkey was losing patience with the military assault in Idlib and accused Russia of "not honoring" agreements aimed at stemming the violence there.

Russian officials said they were not notified by Ankara about the attack in advance, a claim Erdogan's Justice and Development Party contradicted before the president left Turkey for an official visit to Ukraine.

"I want to especially tell the Russian authorities that our interlocuter here is not you but the [Syrian] regime, and do not stand in our way," Erdogan told reporters before leaving.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax