Turkey and Russia are discussing opening Russian-controlled airspace in Syria's Idlib region for armed and unarmed drones, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying Thursday, but he added that problems over the issue persisted.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Akar said Ankara was "hopeful" about ongoing talks between Turkish and Russian officials in Ankara over the northwestern Idlib region, where Turkey's military is backing the Syrian opposition against regime forces backed by Russia.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had previously mentioned that access to airspace over Idlib was crucial for the Turkish military.
Akar also said he would speak with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper by telephone later on Thursday.
Backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, Syrian regime forces have been fighting since the start of the year to recapture the Aleppo countryside and parts of neighboring Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country.
The advances have sent hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing toward the border with Turkey in the biggest single displacement of the nine-year war.
It has also upset the fragile cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, which back opposing sides in the conflict.
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 since been killed in attacks by the Assad regime and Russian forces, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
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