Erdogan will meet with Putin in Russia on Thursday for talks on Syria

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia on Thursday for a summit with its counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the growing tensions in Syria, his office said Monday.

The president will make a one-day visit to Russia on March 5, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Turkey confirmed on Sunday that it had launched a full military operation against Syrian forces backed by Russia after escalating fighting in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib.

Ankara, who backs Islamist fighters in the province, killed 19 Syrian soldiers in drone attacks on Sunday and shot down two regime planes.

But he remains determined to avoid direct confrontations with Moscow, with which he shares important ties of defense and trade.

Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, Turkey and Russia have closely coordinated in the past.

They secured an agreement in Sochi in 2018 that led Turkey to establish 12 military observation posts in Idlib to avoid a Syrian offensive and a new flood of refugees in Turkish territory.

But Syria and Russia seem increasingly determined to regain full control of the area and an offensive launched in December has displaced nearly one million civilians, and has seen increasing fighting between Turkish and Syrian forces.

The last escalation followed the death of 34 Turkish soldiers last week in an air strike attributed to Damascus .