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Putin, Erdogan Discuss Syria, Defense Cooperation

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watch planes during the MAKS air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on August 27.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks outside Moscow as the two leaders seek common ground on the Syrian conflict.

Putin said after the talks on August 27 that he and Erdogan have outlined additional joint measures aimed at rooting out "terrorists" in Syria's Idlib region -- the last rebel stronghold in the country.

"Together with Turkey's president we have outlined additional joint steps to neutralize the terrorists' nests in Idlib and normalize the situation there and in the whole of Syria as a result," Putin told a joint briefing with Erdogan.

Putin also said he and the Turkish leader had underlined that Syria should remain a unified country.

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

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

"The situation [in Idlib] has become so complicated that at this moment our troops are in danger," Erdogan said.

"We do not want this to continue. All necessary steps will be taken here as needed."

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.

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

The talks came ahead of a planned September 16 summit in Ankara that will bring together Putin, Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

Putin and Erdogan, who attended the opening of the MAKS air show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow, a biennial event that showcases Russia’s aerospace industry, also discussed relations between Moscow and Ankara, particularly military-technical cooperation.

Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jets performed demonstration flights during the air show.

Opening the show, Putin expressed confidence that "the achievements of [Russia’s] domestic aviation industry and the technical capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Forces will interest Turkish partners."

"This will open up new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation," the Russian president added.

On August 27, Turkey also took delivery of a second batch of the Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

Ankara has purchased the S-400 system despite strong opposition from Washington, a NATO ally.

With reporting by AFP, AP, TASS, and Interfax
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