Turkey, Russia planning Syria ceasefire before New Year
ANKARA - Turkey and Russia are planning to implement a countrywide ceasefire in Syria before the start of the New Year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.
The ceasefire could be put in place "at any moment", the minister told A Haber television after reports a day earlier that Turkey and Russia had agreed a deal.
"We are planning to secure this before the beginning of the New Year," he said, adding it was the "will of the leaders" for this to happen.
Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu said Wednesday that Turkey and Russia had agreed a nationwide truce plan for Syria but none of the key players in the conflict offered an immediate confirmation.
Cavusoglu said that if the ceasefire was successful, political negotiations between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition would take place in the Kazakh capital Astana.
But he insisted the Astana talks, overseen by Turkey and Russia, were not a rival to UN-backed talks that have been taking place on-and-off in Geneva in recent years.
"This is not an alternative to Geneva. It is a complementary step," said Cavusoglu.
"The talks in Astana will be under our supervision," he said, adding which groups will take part remains under discussion.
He said Ankara and Moscow continued intensive efforts to secure the ceasefire.
Russia would act as the regime's "guarantor" in any deal while Turkey would also perform a similar role.
Although Moscow and Ankara are on opposite sides in the civil war with Russia supporting Assad and Turkey calling for him to go, they have begun in the last few months to work closely on Syria.
Relations between Ankara and Moscow were normalised in June after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border in November 2015.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from Aleppo after a ceasefire earlier this month brokered by Ankara and Moscow.
Meanwhile, Turkey stood conspicuously quiet as the regime, supported by Russia, took control last week of Aleppo, dealing the biggest defeat for the rebels in the civil war so far.
But Cavusoglu said it was "out of the question" for Turkey to hold any talks with Assad.