June 14, 2020 / 11:35 AM / 2 months ago

Turkey and Russia put off talks expected to tackle Libya and Syria

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leave a joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia January 13, 2020. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Russia and Turkey have postponed ministerial-level talks which were expected to focus on Libya and Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides in long-standing conflicts.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov decided to put off the talks during a phone call on Sunday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

“The two countries deputy ministers will continue contacts and talks in the period ahead. Minister-level talks will be held at a later date,” the ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had been set to visit Istanbul for the discussions. The Russian foreign ministry said discussion will be held on the date of the ministers’ meeting.

The United Nations said this week that warring sides had begun new ceasefire talks in Libya, where Ankara supports an internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), whose forces have in recent weeks repelled an assault on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA).

Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, backs the LNA in the long-running Libyan conflict.

In Syria, Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces, while Turkey backs opposition fighters.

Although a Turkish-Russian brokered deal three months ago produced a ceasefire that halted fighting in northwest Syria’s Idlib, air strikes have once again hit the region in the last week.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Alexander Smith

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