UPDATE – Turkish delegation due in Russia to talk Idlib, Syria

– Turkey continues to work with Russia to ensure that cease-fire is permanent, says Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

REVISED HEADLINE, DECK; UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS; ADDS MORE REMARKS BY TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – A Turkish delegation will soon visit Russia to discuss the situation in Idlib, a section of northwestern Syria whose cease-fire is under siege, Turkey’s top diplomat on Wednesday.

Following today’s phone conversation between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, a Turkish delegation “will visit Moscow. [Earlier,] a Russian delegation visited Ankara twice and held meetings" on Idlib, said Mevlut Cavusoglu in Albania.

"We continue to work with Russia to ensure that the cease-fire is permanent. But even if there is no result from this process, our determination is obvious. We will do what is needed," said Cavusoglu, speaking alongside his Albanian counterpart Gent Cakaj in the capital Tirana.

Attacks by the Assad regime in Idlib over the last two weeks have martyred about a dozen Turkish military personnel. Turkey has responded in force, killing about 200 Assad regime troops, and has vowed that no attack will be left unanswered.

Also stressing the impact attacks by Assad and Russia have had on local people in Idlib, Cavusoglu said: "The UN Humanitarian Coordination Office announced that 400 civilians have died since Dec. 1, and 700,000 people fled their homes in the past two months,"

Half of these people are children, struggling to survive under difficult conditions in the middle of winter, he added.

The Sochi agreement between Turkey and Russia on Idlib is still in effect, he added, despite a number of flaws.

There are Turkish troops in Idlib as part of an anti-terror and peace mission.

Idlib has been a stronghold of the opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by the regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

– 'No safe haven in Albania for FETO terrorists'

Asked about members of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) — the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey — in Albania, Cavusoglu said that there are hundreds of them seeking asylum.

"We do not want Albania to be a safe haven for FETO members,” he added.

"We see people who took a part in a coup attempt in Turkey trying to seek asylum in Albania and other countries. Their presence is a risk, especially for Albania's future, security and stability."

Praising the steps Albania has taken against FETO so far, he said that it must take more steps for the future.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Turkey also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

Earlier, Cavusoglu attended the opening ceremony of the Balkan Research Center.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Cavusoglu said the center will do in-depth work on Balkan history, literature, culture, and politics.