Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Amid rising tensions and escalating conflicts in neighboring Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he will coordinate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the fighting in Idlib province.
Turkey and Russia agreed in 2018 to create a safe zone for civilians in the northwest province, which has been a longtime opposition stronghold. Recently, however, Syrian government and Russian forces have increased fighting that has so far displaced nearly a million civilians since December. Many initially fled to Turkey, but Ankara has since refused to admit more.
Two more Turkish soldiers were killed in Idlib on Thursday, but Ankara said it's neutralized at least 150 Syrian troops.
"In this call [with Putin], we will discuss all developments in Idlib from top to bottom," Erdogan said. "The result of this conversation tonight will determine our stance there."
Russian officials disputed Turkish claims that hundreds of thousands of Idlib citizens are fleeing for Turkey.
"Reports of the alleged flow of hundreds of thousands of civilians, gravitating towards the Syrian-Turkish border over fights between the terrorists and the government forces in the eastern part of the province, are false," Oleg Zhuravlev, head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, said.
"There are no verifiable photo or video materials or any other evidence supporting claims of movement of allegedly almost one million civilians towards the Syrian-Turkish border from Idlib de-escalation zone."
Turkish officials, in the meantime, have requested air support from the United States over its border with Syria as a show of support for Ankara's military efforts, Middle East Eye reported Thursday. Neither side has confirmed the request.