Attack on Turkish soldiers not carried out by Russia or Syria, Lavrov says

A member of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrols in the border town of Jarablus. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Alanya, Antalya, Turkey Dec 01, 2016, 02.27 PM (IST)

"Russia has nothing to do with this. Neither does the Syrian Arab Republic or its airforce," Lavrov told reporters at a joint news conference after meeting his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in the Mediterranean resort town of Alanya.

Four Turkish soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in an air strike on November 24 during a Turkish-backed rebel operation in northern Syria.

Lavrov also said that Russia was ready to speak with all parties in the Syrian conflict.

"Never have we refused contacts with any of the opposition groups. Indeed, it was on our insistance that the clause about the necessity to hold dialogue with all key, political opposition groups was included in the resolution 2254 proposed by the international Syria Support Group," Lavrov said.

Both Turkey and Russia, two of the main backers of opposing sides in Syria's civil war, said they agreed on the need for a halt to fighting and the provision of aid in Aleppo but deep divisions remain between the two countries over the conflict.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey's stance on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was unchanged.

"Our President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan's) position on (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is clear. We know that Assad is responsible of killing 600,000 people. Sometimes we might have different opinions. This is natural but we agree with Russia on need for ceasefire, humanitarian and political transition," Cavusoglu said.

Russia is the main backer of Assad, while Turkey supports the rebels fighting to oust him. The rebels have come under siege in eastern Aleppo after rapid advances by Syrian government forces in recent days, bringing them to the brink of a major defeat.

"A ceasefire must be achieved in all of Syria, notably in Aleppo," Cavusoglu said adding Turkey was in agreement with Russia in broad terms on the need for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid and political transition.

Syrian rebels on Wednesday (November 30) vowed to fight on in east Aleppo in the face of sudden government advances that have cut the city's opposition sector by a third.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in Aleppo with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by phone for the third time in a week on Wednesday and agreed on the need for a ceasefire, sources in Erdogan's office said.

While remaining divided on Assad's future, Ankara and Moscow have been trying to find common ground on Syria since a rapprochement in August.

(Reuters)