ANKARA (Dispatches) -- The presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran meet on Monday to try to secure a lasting truce in northwest Syria.
The summit in Ankara will focus on the Idlib region, the last remaining territory held by terrorists seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani have backed Syria against foreign-backed terrorists. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, along with the United States, European and Arab allies, has supported different militant factions in the conflict.
Syrian government forces have regained control of most lands lost in the war. In recent months, they have attacked Idlib, where Takfiri terrorists hold sway alongside other militants backed by Turkey and other foreign countries.
Under a deal with Moscow and Tehran two years ago, Turkey set up 12 military observation posts in northwest Syria aimed at reducing fighting between Syrian forces and terrorists. The Turkish military posts have recently been caught in the crossfire due to the Syrian offensive in the region to drive out terrorists.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Erdogan warned that any Syrian government attack on the posts would draw retaliation from Turkish forces, possibly risking a direct confrontation between Ankara and Damascus.
"The moment that the regime messes with our observation posts, if there is any attack, then things will take a very different direction,” Erdogan told Reuters. "We will not hold back like we are now. We will take any necessary steps.”
Erdogan and Putin agreed at talks in Moscow in August to "normalize” the situation in the region, after Syrian troops encircled terrorists and a Turkish post.
While Putin and Erdogan have forged close ties over a range of issues like energy and defense cooperation, recent attacks by Syrian troops have also strained ties between Ankara and Moscow.
While Erdogan has said that Turkey could not handle an influx of refugees, he has also previously threatened to "open the gates” for migrants to Europe unless Ankara receives more international support.
On Friday, Erdogan reiterated his warning and said Monday’s summit would aim to stop the migration from Idlib and establish a ceasefire to prevent any further civilian casualties.
"The expectation here is not a momentary ceasefire. First, it is to put a stop to the migration here,” he told Reuters. "Second, to ensure a ceasefire here. Third, to seriously get terrorist organizations under control,” he added.
"Turkey, which is hosting 3.6 million refugees in its home at the moment, cannot take the millions of people that will arrive from there,” Erdogan said. "We cannot carry that weight.”
Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) suffered some stunning local election losses this year in part due to impatience among Turks over the Syrian refugees. Erdogan has claimed one million refugees could return to a "safe zone” in northeast Syria, which Turkey is trying to establish with the United States.
On Monday, Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani are expected to hold bilateral talks with each other before holding trilateral talks on the developments in Idlib. The three presidents will then hold a joint news conference.