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Russia's Putin, Turkey's Erdogan To Hold Talks In Moscow

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Moscow meeting in April

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Moscow regional town of Zhukovsky on August 27 for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

"It's precisely for discussing this complicated situation that the presidents have agreed to have a meeting in Moscow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on August 26.

“There are troubles arising from the [Bashar al-Assad] regime’s violations in Idlib. We closely talked about this with [Putin on the phone]," Erdogan said on August 26. "We will hopefully eliminate these problems as soon as possible.”

He also said Turkish ground troops will enter Syria “soon,” according to the Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper.

“Right now, our drones and unmanned aerial vehicles have entered the region along with our helicopters,” the Turkish president said. “The fortifications near our borders are being destroyed. We expect our land troops to enter the region very soon.”

Hundreds of people, including many civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands of others fled toward the border with Turkey since Syrian government forces and ally Russia in April launched an offensive in Idlib -- the last rebel stronghold in the country.

Ankara has said that the assault was causing a humanitarian crisis and posed a threat to Turkey's national security.

Turkey already has taken in more than 3.6 million refugees from Syria since the conflict began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the war, according to the United Nations.

Peskov told journalists that Putin understood Erdogan’s concerns but that he was equally concerned about attacks by “terrorist elements” from Idlib that needed to be “stamped out and destroyed.”

Idlib is mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The region is covered by a deescalation agreement reached last year between Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which are backing opposite sides in Syria’s civil war.

Russia and Iran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial backing throughout the conflict, while Turkey supports different rebel groups.

Peskov said that Putin and Erdogan will also discuss the Ukraine crisis, as well as relations between Moscow and Ankara.

"Turkey is our close partner, our ally," he said. "We are bound by well-developed multifaceted trade and economic relations and multifaceted ties, which are close even in such sensitive areas as military-technical cooperation."

Ankara has purchased Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system despite strong opposition from Washington, a NATO ally.

Turkey, which has started receiving components of the S-400, says it plans to start using the missile-defense system in April.

Erdogan will also attend the MAKS air show, a biennial event that showcases Russia’s aerospace industry.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax
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