- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Russian and Turkish leaders, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of this weekend’s four-nation Syrian War summit in Istanbul, which will also gather representatives from France and Germany.

Russia is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government while Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.

Last month, Russia and Turkey reached an agreement to set up a demilitarized zone around the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib preventing a government offensive on the last rebel stronghold in the country.

Idlib has been calm since, though some militant groups did not meet an Oct. 15 deadline to evacuate the DMZ.

Many feared that a government offensive in Idlib would trigger a new refugee crisis as the region is home to some 3 million people, many of them already displaced by the war from other parts of Syria.

On Tuesday, top Russian diplomat Andrei Buravov confirmed “a separate bilateral meeting” has been scheduled for Saturday in Istanbul between Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Putin, according to the Russian news service Tass.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Moscow did not expect a breakthrough decision during the four-country talks, Tass reported.

“It would be probably incorrect to predict that the summit is held with the aim of reaching certain agreements,” Mr. Peskov said. “Obviously, we need to be realistic.”

Turkey’s presidential spokesman has said the summit is expected to address all aspects of the Syrian conflict, including the situation on the ground, the Idlib agreement and efforts for a lasting solution to the conflict.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to attend.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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