ISTANBUL 

The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke over the phone on Monday to discuss the latest developments in war-weary Libya and Eastern Mediterranean as well as other regional issues.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of maintaining close cooperation and dialogue in this regard, Turkey’s Directorate of Communications said.

The two leaders also addressed steps to enhance bilateral relations, especially in tourism, transport, energy, and economy, and the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Libya has been torn by a civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya’s new government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to the military offensive by warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The UN recognizes the Libyan government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority.

Last Monday Turkey announced that its drillship Oruc Reis would begin conducting fresh energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s decision came following a controversial delimitation deal signed between Greece and Egypt, spurning Turkey’s earlier goodwill gesture to postpone energy exploration in the region.

The ship will continue its work in the Eastern Mediterranean along with the ships Cengiz Han and Ataman until Aug. 23.

Syria

Erdogan and Putin also agreed to maintain contact between Turkey and Russia on Syria via military and diplomatic channels.

This March, Ankara and Moscow agreed on a protocol urging parties to “cease all military actions along the line of contact in the Idlib de-escalation area.”

The protocol said joint Turkish-Russian patrols would begin on March 15 along the M4 highway from the settlement of Trumba — 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) west of Saraqib — to the settlement of Ain al-Havr. On Monday, 25th joint land patrols were carried out in the region.

Idlib has long been under siege by Assad regime forces and its allies, and previous cease-fires for the region were plagued by violations.

Turkey has worked to protect the local civilian population as well as rid the wider region of terrorist elements.

Syria has been ravaged by civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN estimates.

*Writing by Gozde Bayar

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