Erdogan tells Putin of concern over attacks in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin look at each other during a joint press conference with the Iranian president, as part of a tripartite summit on Syria, in Ankara, on April 4, 2018.
The presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia met on April 4, 2018 for their second tripartite summit in under six months, aiming to speed the peace process for Syria and bolster their influence in the country. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday expressed concern to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over attacks in Eastern Ghouta, the Turkish presidency said, after an alleged chemical attack killed dozens of people.

“President Erdogan expressed concern about the attacks in Douma and Eastern Ghouta and emphasised the importance of preventing civilian deaths and working together to deliver humanitarian aid,” said a Turkish presidential source after telephone talks between the two leaders.

Turkey and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict in Syria, with Moscow a chief ally of President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara backing rebels seeking to oust him.

Yet Turkey has worked closely in the last months with Russia and Assad’s other main ally Iran in a bid to bring peace to Syria. Last week, Erdogan hosted a summit on Syria in Ankara with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Putin.

The presidential source said that in the telephone talks the two leaders expressed “satisfaction” with the results of the Syria summit.

Turkey has recently largely steered clear of criticising Putin and Russia in public over Kremlin policy on Syria.

Rescue workers said dozens of civilians had been killed on Saturday in a chlorine gas attack on Douma in the former rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta — claims denied by Assad’s regime and Russia.

The Turkish foreign ministry at the weekend said there was a “strong suspicion” that Assad’s regime was responsible for the attack.