Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the situation in Syria’s city of 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 cease-fire, sources in Erdoğan’s office said, Reuters reported.
Sources told Reuters that the two leaders agreed on intensifying efforts towards a cessation of hostilities and on the need for the provision of aid to the city.
The phone call came a day after Erdoğan’s remarks about the Turkish presence in Syria. In a speech on Tuesday Erdoğan said: “We are there [Syria] to bring justice. We are there to end the rule of the cruel Assad, who has been spreading state terror.”
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a statement by Erdoğan suggesting that Turkish forces entered Syria to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had come as a surprise to Moscow and that it expected an explanation from Ankara.
“The announcement really came as news to us. It is a very serious statement and one which differs from previous ones and with our understanding of the situation. We hope that our Turkish partners will provide us with some kind of explanation about this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call as reported by Reuters.
As part of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels drive the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the Syrian side of the border in August, in a dramatic escalation of its involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Turkey, which cut off relations with Syria in 2011 when a civil war broke out in the country, has been a vigorous supporter of the removal of the Assad regime.
In an interview with Portugal’s RTP state television earlier this month, Syrian President Assad described Erdoğan as a megalomaniac and a sick person when asked about Erdoğan’s comments on his interest in Aleppo and Mosul.
“You’re talking about a sick person; he’s megalomaniac president, he is not stable. He lives in the Ottoman era, he doesn’t live in the present. He’s out of touch with reality,” the Syrian president said.
Once allies, relations between Erdoğan and Assad were strained and subsequently collapsed following the beginning of the civil war in Syria.